Transcribers note: A number of spelling errors and inconsistencies of names have been corrected.
THE HOUSE OF THE COMBRAYS
G. LE NOTRE
Translated from the French by Mrs. Joseph B. Gilder
New York Dodd, Mead & Company 1902 Copyright, 1902, by Dodd, Mead & Company First Edition Published October, 1902
PREFACE I. THE TREACHERY OF JEAN-PIERRE QUERELLE II. THE CAPTURE OF GEORGES CADOUDAL III. THE COMBRAYS IV. THE ADVENTURES OF D'ACHE V. THE AFFAIR OF QUESNAY VI. THE YELLOW HORSE VII. MADAME ACQUET VIII. PAYING THE PENALTY IX. THE FATE OF D'ACHE X. THE CHOUANS SET FREE
AN OLD TOWER
One evening in the winter of 1868 or 1869, my father-in-law, Moisson, with whom I was chatting after dinner, took up a book that was lying on the table, open at the page where I had stopped reading, and said:
"Ah! you are reading Mme. de la Chanterie?"
"Yes," I replied. "A fine book; do you know it?"
"Of course! I even know the heroine."
"Mme. de la Chanterie!"
"—— By her real name Mme. de Combray. I lived three months in her house."
"No, not in the Rue Chanoinesse, where she did not live, any more than she was the saintly woman of Balzac's novel;—but at her Chateau of Tournebut d'Aubevoye near Gaillon!"
"Gracious, Moisson, tell me about it;" and without further solicitation, Moisson told me the following story:
"My mother was a Brecourt, whose ancestor was a bastard of Gaston d'Orleans, and she was on this account a royalist, and very proud of her nobility. The Brecourts, who were fighting people, had never become rich, and the Revolution ruined them completely. During the Terror my mother married Moisson, my father, a painter and engraver, a plebeian but also an ardent royalist, participating in all the plots for the deliverance of the royal family. This explains the mesalliance. She hoped, besides, that the monarchy, of whose reestablishment she had no doubt, would recognise my father's services by ennobling him and reviving the name of Brecourt, which was now represented only in the female line. She always called herself Moisson de Brecourt, and bore me a grudge for using only my father's name.
"In 1804, when I was eight years old, we were living on the island of Saint-Louis, and I remember very well the excitement in the quarter, and above all in our house, caused by the arrest of Georges Cadoudal. I can see my mother anxiously sending our faithful servant for news; my father came home less and less often; and at last, one night, he woke me up suddenly, kissed me, kissed my mother hastily, and I can still hear the noise of the street door closing behind him. We never saw him again!"
"No, we should have known that, but probably killed in flight, or dead of fatigue and want, or drowned in crossing some river—like many other fugitives, whose names I used to know. He was to have sent us news as soon as he was in safety. After a month's waiting, my mother's despair became alarming. She seemed mad, committed the most compromising acts, spoke aloud and with so little reserve about Bonaparte, that each time the bell rang, our servant and I expected to see the police.
"A very different kind of visitor appeared one fine morning. He was, he said, the business man of Mme. de Combray, a worthy woman who lived in her Chateau of Tournebut d'Aubevoye near Gaillon. She was a fervent royalist, and had heard through common friends of my father's disappearance, and compassionating our misfortune placed a house near her own at the disposal of my mother, who would there find the safety and peace that she needed, after her cruel sorrows. As my mother hesitated, Mme. de Combray's messenger urged the benefit to my health, the exercise and the good air indispensable at my age, and finally she consented. Having obtained all necessary information, my mother, the servant and I took the boat two days after, at Saint-Germain, and arrived by sunset the same evening at Roule, near Aubevoye. A gardener was waiting with a cart for us and our luggage. A few moments later we entered the court of the chateau.
"Mme. de Combray received us in a large room overlooking the Seine. She had one of her sons with her, and two intimate friends, who welcomed my mother with the consideration due to the widow of one who had served the good cause. Supper was served; I was drooping with sleep, and the only remembrance I have of this meal is the voice of my mother, passionate and excitable as ever. Next morning, after breakfast, the gardener appeared with his cart, to take us to the house we were to occupy; the road was so steep and rough that my mother preferred to go on foot, leading her horse by the bridle. We were in a thick wood, climbing all the time, and surprised at having to go so far and so high to reach the habitation that had been offered to us near the chateau. We came to a clearing in the wood, and the gardener cried, 'Here we are!' and pointed to our dwelling. 'Oh!' cried my mother, 'it is a donjon!' It was an old round tower, surmounted by a platform and with no opening but the door and some loop-holes that served as windows.
"The situation itself was not displeasing. A plateau cleared in the woods, surrounded by large trees with a vista towards the Seine, and a fine view extending some distance. The gardener had a little hut near by, and there was a small kitchen-garden for our use. In fact one would have been easily satisfied with this solitude, after the misfortunes of the Isle Saint-Louis, if the tower had been less forbidding. To enter it one had to cross a little moat, over which were thrown two planks, which served as a bridge. By means of a cord and pulley this could be drawn up from the inside, against the entrance door, thus making it doubly secure. 'And this is the drawbridge!' said my mother, mockingly.
"The ground floor consisted of a circular chamber, with a table, chairs, a sideboard, etc. Opposite the door, in an embrasure of the wall, about two yards in thickness, a barred window lighted this room, which was to serve as sitting-room, kitchen and dining-room at the same time; but lighted it so imperfectly that to see plainly even in the daytime one had to leave the door open. On one side was the fireplace, and on the other the wooden staircase that led to the upper floors; under the staircase was a trap-door firmly closed by a large lock.
"'It is the cellar,' said the gardener, 'but it is dangerous, as it is full of rubbish. I have a place where you can keep your drink.' 'And our food?' said the servant.
"The gardener explained that he often went down to the chateau in his cart and that the cook would have every facility for doing her marketing at Aubevoye. As for my mother, Mme. de Combray, thinking that the journey up and down hill would be too much for her, would send a donkey which would do for her to ride when we went to the chateau in the afternoon or evening. On the first floor were two rooms separated by a partition; one for my mother and me, the other for the servant, both lighted only by loop-holes. It was cold and sinister.
"'This is a prison!' cried my mother.
"The gardener remarked that we should only sleep there; and seeing my mother about to go up to the next floor, he stopped her, indicating the dilapidated condition of the stairs. 'This floor is abandoned,' he said; 'the platform above is in a very bad state, and the staircase impracticable and dangerous. Mme. de Combray begs that you will never go above the first landing, for fear of an accident.' After which he went to get our luggage.
"My mother then gave way to her feelings. It was a mockery to lodge us in this rat-hole. She talked of going straight back to Paris; but our servant was so happy at having no longer to fear the police; I had found so much pleasure gathering flowers in the wood and running after butterflies; my mother herself enjoyed the great calm and silence so much that the decision was put off till the next day. And the next day we renounced all idea of going.
"Our life for the next two months was untroubled. We were at the longest days of the year. Once a week we were invited to supper at the chateau, and we came home through the woods at night in perfect security. Sometimes in the afternoon my mother went to visit Mme. de Combray, and always found her playing at cards or tric-trac with friends staying at the chateau or passing through, but oftenest with a stout man, her lawyer. No existence could be more commonplace or peaceful. Although they talked politics freely (but with more restraint than my mother), she told me later that she never for one moment suspected that she was in a nest of conspirators. Once or twice only Mme. de Combray, touched by the sincerity and ardour of her loyalty, seemed to be on the point of confiding in her. She even forgot herself so far as to say:—'Oh! if you were not so hot-headed, one would tell you certain things!'—but as if already regretting that she had said so much, she stopped abruptly.
"One night, when my mother could not sleep, her attention was attracted by a dull noise down-stairs, as if some one were shutting a trap-door clumsily. She lay awake all night uneasily, listening, but in vain. Next morning we found the room down-stairs in its usual condition; but my mother would not admit that she had been dreaming, and the same day spoke to Mme. de Combray, who joked her about it, and sent her to the gardener. The latter said he had made the noise. Passing the tower he had imagined that the door was not firmly closed, and had pushed against it to make sure. The incident did not occur again; but several days later there was a new, and this time more serious, alarm.
"I had noticed on top of the tower a blackbird's nest, which could easily be reached from the platform, but, faithful to orders, I had never gone up there. This time, however, the temptation was too strong. I watched until my mother and the servant were in our little garden, and then climbed nimbly up to take the nest. On the landing of the second floor, curious to get a peep at the uninhabited rooms, I pushed open the door, and saw distinctly behind the glass door in the partition that separated the two rooms, a green curtain drawn quickly. In a great fright I rushed down-stairs head over heels, and ran into the garden, calling my mother and shouting, 'There is some one up-stairs in the room!' She did not believe it and scolded me. As I insisted she followed me up-stairs with the servant. From the landing my mother cried, 'Is any one there?' Silence. She pushed open the glass door. No one to be seen—only a folding-bed, unmade. She touched it; it was warm! Some one had been there, asleep,—dressed, no doubt. Where was he? On the platform? We went up. No one was there! He had no doubt escaped when I ran to the garden!
"We went down again quickly and our servant called the gardener. He had disappeared. We saddled the donkey, and my mother went hurry-scurry to the chateau. She found the lawyer at the eternal tric-trac with Mme. de Combray, who frowned at the first word, not even interrupting her game.
"'More dreams! The room is unoccupied! No one sleeps there!'
"'But the curtain!'
"'Well, what of the curtain? Your child made a draught by opening the door, and the curtain swung.'
"'But the bed, still warm!'
"'The gardener has some cats that must have been lying there, and ran away when the door was opened, and that's all about it!'
"'Well, have you found this ghost?'
"'Well then?' And she shook her dice rather roughly without paying any more attention to my mother, who after exchanging a curt good-night with the Marquise, returned to the tower, so little convinced of the presence of the cats that she took two screw-rings from one of our boxes, fixed them on to the trap-door, closed them with a padlock, took the key and said, 'Now we will see if any one comes in that way.' And for greater security she decided to lift the drawbridge after supper. We all three took hold of the rope that moved with difficulty on the rusty pulley. It was hard; we made three attempts. At last it moved, the bridge shook, lifted, came right up. It was done! And that evening, beside my bed, my mother said:
"'We will not grow old in her Bastille!'
"Which was true, for eight days later we were awakened in the middle of the night by a terrible hubbub on the ground floor. From our landing we heard several voices, swearing and raging under the trap-door which they were trying to raise, to which the padlock offered but feeble resistance, for a strong push broke it off and the door opened with a great noise. My mother and the servant rushed to the bureau, pushed and dragged it to the door, whilst some men came out of the cellar, walked to the door, grumbling, opened it, saw the drawbridge up, unfastened the rope and let it fall down with a loud bang, and then the voices grew fainter till they disappeared in the wood. But go to sleep after all that! We stayed there waiting for the dawn, and though all danger was over, not daring to speak aloud!
"At last the day broke. We moved the bureau, and my mother, brave as ever, went down first, carrying a candle. The yawning trap-door exposed the black hole of a cellar, the entrance door was wide open and the bridge down. We called the gardener, who did not answer, and whose hut was empty. My mother did not wait till afternoon this time, but jumped on her donkey and went down to the chateau.
"Mme. de Combray was dressing. She expected my mother and knew her object in coming so well that without waiting for her to tell her story, she flew out like most people, who, having no good reason to give, resort to angry words, and cried as soon as she entered the room:
"'You are mad; mad enough to be shut up! You take my house for a resort of bandits and counterfeiters! I am sorry enough that I ever brought you here!'
"'And I that I ever came!'
"'Very well, then—go!'
"'I am going to-morrow. I came to tell you so.'
"'A safe return to you!' On which Mme. de Combray turned her back, and my mother retraced her steps to the tower in a state of exasperation, fully determined to take the boat for Paris without further delay.
"Early next morning we made ready. The gardener was at the door with his cart, coming and going for our luggage, while the servant put the soup on the table. My mother took only two or three spoonfuls and I did the same, as I hate soup. The servant alone emptied her plate! We went down to Roule where the gardener had scarcely left us when the servant was seized with frightful vomiting. My mother and I were also slightly nauseated, but the poor girl retained nothing, happily for her, for we returned to Paris convinced that the gardener, being left alone for a moment, had thrown some poison into the soup."
"And did nothing happen afterwards?"
"And you heard nothing more from Tournebut?"
"Nothing, until 1808, when we learned that the mail had been attacked and robbed near Falaise by a band of armed men commanded by Mme. de Combray's daughter, Mme. Acquet de Ferolles, disguised as a hussar! Then, that Mme. Acquet had been arrested as well as her lover (Le Chevalier), her husband, her mother, her lawyer and servants and those of Mme. de Combray at Tournebut; and finally that Mme. de Combray had been condemned to imprisonment and the pillory, Mme. Acquet, her lover, the lawyer (Lefebre) and several others, to death."
"And the husband?"
"Released; he was a spy."
"Was your mother called as a witness?"
"No, happily, they knew nothing about us. Besides, what would she have said?"
"Nothing, except that the people who frightened you so much, must surely have belonged to the band; that they had forced the trap-door, after a nocturnal expedition, on which they had been pursued as far as a subterranean entrance, which without doubt led to the cellar."
After we had chatted a while on this subject Moisson wished me good-night, and I took up Balzac's chef d'oeuvre and resumed my reading. But I only read a few lines; my imagination was wandering elsewhere. It was a long distance from Balzac's idealism to the realism of Moisson, which awakened in me memories of the stories and melodramas of Ducray-Duminil, of Guilbert de Pixerecourt—"Alexis, ou la Maisonette dans les Bois," "Victor, ou l'Enfant de la Foret,"—and many others of the same date and style so much discredited nowadays. And I thought that what caused the discredit now, accounted for their vogue formerly; that they had a substratum of truth under a mass of absurdity; that these stories of brigands in their traditional haunts, forests, caverns and subterranean passages, charmed by their likelihood the readers of those times to whom an attack on a coach by highwaymen with blackened faces was as natural an occurrence as a railway accident is to us, and that in what seems pure extravaganza to us they only saw a scarcely exaggerated picture of things that were continually happening under their eyes. In the reports published by M. Felix Rocquain we can learn the state of France during the Directory and the early years of the Commune. The roads, abandoned since 1792, were worn into such deep ruts, that to avoid them the waggoners made long circuits in ploughed land, and the post-chaises would slip and sink into the muddy bogs from which it was impossible to drag them except with oxen. At every step through the country one came to a deserted hamlet, a roofless house, a burned farm, a chateau in ruins. Under the indifferent eyes of a police that cared only for politics, and of gendarmes recruited in such a fashion that a criminal often recognised an old comrade in the one who arrested him, bands of vagabonds and scamps of all kinds had been formed; deserters, refractories, fugitives from the pretended revolutionary army, and terrorists without employment, "the scum," said Francois de Nantes, "of the Revolution and the war; 'lanterneurs' of '91, 'guillotineurs' of '93, 'sabreurs' of the year III, 'assommeurs' of the year IV, 'fusilleurs' of the year V." All this canaille lived only by rapine and murder, camped in the forests, ruins and deserted quarries like that at Gueudreville, an underground passage one hundred feet long by thirty broad, the headquarters of the band of Orgeres, a thoroughly organised company of bandits—chiefs, subchiefs, storekeepers, spies, couriers, barbers, surgeons, dressmakers, cooks, preceptors for the "gosses," and cure!
And this brigandage was rampant everywhere. There was so little safety in the Midi from Marseilles to Toulon and Toulouse that one could not travel without an escort. In the Var, the Bouches-du-Rhone, Vaucluse, from Digne and Draguignan, to Avignon and Aix, one had to pay ransom. A placard placed along the roads informed the traveller that unless he paid a hundred francs in advance, he risked being killed. The receipt given to the driver served as a passport. Theft by violence was so much the custom that certain villages in the Lower Alps were openly known as the abode of those who had no other occupation. On the banks of the Rhone travellers were charitably warned not to put up at certain solitary inns for fear of not reappearing therefrom. On the Italian frontier they were the "barbets"; in the North the "garroteurs"; in the Ardeche the "bande noire"; in the Centre the "Chiffoniers"; in Artois, Picardie, the Somme, Seine-Inferieure, the Chartrain country, the Orleanais, Loire-Inferieure, Orne, Sarthe, Mayenne, Ille-et-Vilaine, etc., and Ile-de-France to the very gates of Paris, but above all in Calvados, Finistere and La Manche where royalism served as their flag, the "chauffeurs" and the bands of "Grands Gars" and "Coupe et Tranche," which under pretence of being Chouans attacked farms or isolated dwellings, and inspired such terror that if one of them were arrested neither witness nor jury could be found to condemn him. Politics evidently had nothing to do with these exploits; it was a private war. And the Chouans professed to wage it only against the government. So long as they limited themselves to fighting the gendarmes or national guards in bands of five or six hundred, to invading defenceless places in order to cut down the trees of liberty, burn the municipal papers, and pillage the coffers of the receivers and school-teachers—(the State funds having the right to return to their legitimate owner, the King), they could be distinguished from professional malefactors. But when they stopped coaches, extorted ransom from travellers and shot constitutional priests and purchasers of the national property, the distinction became too subtle. There was no longer any room for it in the year VIII and IX when, vigorous measures having almost cleared the country of the bands of "chauffeurs" and other bandits who infested it, the greater number of those who had escaped being shot or guillotined joined what remained of the royalist army, last refuge of brigandage.
In such a time Moisson's adventure was not at all extraordinary. We can only accuse it of being too simple. It was the mildest scene of a huge melodrama in which he and his mother had played the part of supers. But slight as was the episode, it had all the attraction of the unknown for me. Of Tournebut and its owners I knew nothing. Who, in reality, was this Mme. de Combray, sanctified by Balzac? A fanatic, or an intriguer?—And her daughter Mme. Acquet? A heroine or a lunatic?—and the lover? A hero or an adventurer?—And the husband, the lawyer and the friends of the house? Mme. Acquet more than all piqued my curiosity. The daughter of a good house disguised as a hussar to stop the mail like Choppart! This was not at all commonplace! Was she young and pretty? Moisson knew nothing about it; he had never seen her or her lover or husband, Mme. de Combray having quarrelled with all of them.
I was most anxious to learn more, but to do that it would be necessary to consult the report of the trial in the record office at Rouen. I never had time. I mentioned it to M. Gustave Bord, to Frederic Masson and M. de la Sicotiere, and thought no more about it even after the interesting article published in the Temps, by M. Ernest Daudet, until walking one day with Lenotre in the little that is left of old Paris of the Cite, the house in the Rue Chanoinesse, where Balzac lodged Mme. de la Chanterie, reminded me of Moisson, whose adventure I narrated to Lenotre, at that time finishing his "Conspiration de la Rouerie." That was sufficient to give him the idea of studying the records of the affair of 1807, which no one had consulted before him. A short time after he told me that the tower of Tournebut was still in existence, and that he was anxious for us to visit it, the son-in-law of the owner of the Chateau of Aubevoye, M. Constantin, having kindly offered to conduct us.
On a fine autumn morning the train left us at the station that served the little village of Aubevoye, whose name has twice been heard in the Courts of Justice, once in the trial of Mme. de Combray and once in that of Mme. de Jeufosse. Those who have no taste for these sorts of excursions cannot understand their charm. Whether it be a little historical question to be solved, an unknown or badly authenticated fact to be elucidated, this document hunt with its deceptions and surprises is the most amusing kind of chase, especially in company with a delver like Lenotre, endowed with an admirable flair that always puts him on the right track. There was, moreover, a particular attraction in this old forgotten tower, in which we alone were interested, and in examining into Moisson's story!
Of the chateau that had been built by the Marechal de Marillac, and considerably enlarged by Mme. de Combray, nothing, unhappily, remains but the out-buildings, a terrace overlooking the Seine, the court of honour turned into a lawn, an avenue of old limes and the ancient fence. A new building replaced the old one fifty years ago. The little chateau, "Gros-Mesnil," near the large one has recently been restored.
But the general effect is the same as in 1804. Seeing the great woods that hug the outer wall so closely, one realises how well they lent themselves to the mysterious comings and goings, to the secret councils, to the role destined for it by Mme. de Combray, preparing the finest room for the arrival of the King or the Comte d'Artois, and in both the great and little chateau, arranging hiding-places, one of which alone could accommodate forty armed men.
The tower is still there, far from the chateau, at the summit of a wooded hill in the centre of a clearing, which commands the river valley. It is a squat, massive construction, of forbidding aspect, such as Moisson described, with thick walls, and windows so narrow that they look more like loopholes. It seems as if it might originally have been one of the guard-houses or watch-towers erected on the heights from Nantes to Paris, like the tower of Montjoye whose ditch is recognisable in the Forest of Marly, or those of Montaigu and Hennemont, whose ruins were still visible in the last century. Some of these towers were converted into mills or pigeon-houses. Ours, whose upper story and pointed roof had been demolished and replaced by a platform at an uncertain date, was flanked by a wooden mill, burnt before the Revolution, for it is not to be found in Cassini's chart which shows all in the region. The tower and its approaches are still known as the "burnt mill."
There remains no trace of the excavation which was in front of the entrance in 1804, and which must have been the last vestige of an old moat. The threshold crossed, we are in the circular chamber; at the end facing the door is the window, the bars of which have been taken down; on the left a modern chimneypiece replaces the old one, and on the right is the staircase, in good condition. The trap-door has disappeared from under it, the cellar being abandoned as useless. On the first floor as on the second, where the partitions have been removed, there are still traces of them, with fragments of wall-paper. The very little daylight that filters through the windows justifies Mme. Moisson's exclamation, "It is a prison!" The platform, from which the view is very fine, has been renewed, like the staircase. But from top to bottom all corresponds with Moisson's description.
All that remained now was to find out how one could get into the cellar from outside. We had two excellent guides; our kind host, M. Constantin, and M. l'Abbe Drouin, the cure of Aubevoye, who knew all the local traditions. They mentioned the "Grotto of the Hermit!" O Ducray-Duminil!—Thou again!
The grotto is an old quarry in the side of the hill towards the Seine, below the tower and having no apparent communication with it, but so situated that an underground passage of a few yards would unite them. The grotto being now almost filled up, the entrance to this passage has disappeared. Looking at it, so innocent in appearance now under the brush and brambles, I seemed to see some Chouan by star-light, eye and ear alert, throw himself into it like a rabbit into its hole, and creep through to the tower, to sleep fully dressed on the pallet on the second floor. Evidently this tower, planned as were all Mme. de Combray's abodes, was one of the many refuges arranged by the Chouans from the coast of Normandy to Paris and known only to themselves.
But why was Mme. Moisson accommodated there without being taken into her hostess's confidence? If Mme. de Combray wished to avert suspicion by having two women and a child there, she might have told them so; and if she thought Mme. Moisson too excitable to hear such a confession, she should not have exposed her to nocturnal mysteries that could only tend to increase her excitement! When Phelippeaux was questioned, during the trial of Georges Cadoudal, about Moisson's father, who had disappeared, he replied that he lived in the street and island of Saint-Louis near the new bridge; that he was an engraver and manager of a button factory; that Mme. Moisson had a servant named R. Petit-Jean, married to a municipal guard. Was it through fear of this woman's writing indiscreetly to her husband that Mme. de Combray remained silent? But in any case, why the tower?
However this may be, the exactness of Moisson's reminiscences was proved. But the trap-door had not been forced, as he believed, by Chouans fleeing after some nocturnal expedition. This point was already decided by the first documents that Lenotre had collected for this present work. There was no expedition of the sort in the neighbourhood of Tournebut during the summer of 1804. They would not have risked attracting attention to the chateau where was hidden the only man whom the Chouans of Normandy judged capable of succeeding Georges, and whom they called "Le Grand Alexandre"—the Vicomte Robert d'Ache. Hunted through Paris like all the royalists denounced by Querelle, he had managed to escape the searchers, to go out in one of his habitual disguises when the gates were reopened, to get to Normandy by the left bank of the Seine and take refuge with his old friend at Tournebut, where he lived for fourteen months under the name of Deslorieres, his presence there never being suspected by the police.
He was certainly, as well as Bonnoeil, Mme. de Combray's eldest son, one of the three guests with whom Moisson took supper on the evening of his arrival. The one who was always playing cards or tric-trac with the Marquise, and whom she called her lawyer, might well have been d'Ache himself. As to the stealthy visitors at the tower, given the presence of d'Ache at Tournebut, it is highly probable that they were only passing by there to confer with him, taking his orders secretly in the woods without even appearing at the chateau, and then disappearing as mysteriously as they had come.
For d'Ache in his retreat still plotted and made an effort to resume, with the English minister, the intrigue that had just failed so miserably, Moreau having withdrawn at the last minute. The royalist party was less intimidated than exasperated at the deaths of the Duke d'Enghien, Georges and Pichegru, and did not consider itself beaten even by the proclamation of the Empire, which had not excited in the provinces—above all in the country—the enthusiasm announced in the official reports.
In reality it had been accepted by the majority of the population as a government of expediency, which would provisionally secure threatened interests, but whose duration was anything but certain. It was too evident that the Empire was Napoleon, as the Consulate had been Bonaparte—that everything rested on the head of one man. If an infernal machine removed him, royalty would have a good opportunity. His life was not the only stake; his luck itself was very hazardous. Founded on victory, the Empire was condemned to be always victorious. War could undo what war had done. And this uneasiness is manifest in contemporary memoirs and correspondence. More of the courtiers of the new regime than one imagines were as sceptical as Mme. Mere, economising her revenues and saying to her mocking daughters, "You will perhaps be very glad of them, some day!" In view of a possible catastrophe many of these kept open a door for retreat towards the Bourbons, and vaguely encouraged hopes of assistance that could only be depended on in case of their success, but which the royalists believed in as positive and immediate. As to the disaster which might bring it about, they hoped for its early coming, and promised it to the impatient Chouans—the disembarkation of an Anglo-Russian army—the rising of the West—the entrance of Louis XVIII into his good town of Paris—and the return of the Corsican to his island! Predictions that were not so wild after all. Ten years later it was an accomplished fact in almost all its details. And what are ten years in politics? Frotte, Georges, Pichegru, d'Ache, would only have had to fold their arms. They would have seen the Empire crumble by its own weight.
We made these reflections on returning to the chateau while looking at the terrace in the setting sun, at the peaceful winding of the Seine and the lovely autumn landscape that Mme. de Combray and d'Ache had so often looked at, at the same place and hour, little foreseeing the sad fate the future had in store for them.
The misfortunes of the unhappy woman—the deplorable affair of Quesnay where the coach with state funds was attacked by Mme. Acquet's men, for the profit of the royalist exchequer and of Le Chevalier; the assassination of d'Ache, sold to the imperial police by La Vaubadon, his mistress, and the cowardly Doulcet de Pontecoulant, who does not boast of it in his "Memoires,"—have been the themes of several tales, romances and novels, wherein fancy plays too great a part, and whose misinformed authors, Hippolyte Bonnelier, Comtesse de Mirabeau, Chennevieres, etc., have taken great advantage of the liberty used in works of imagination. There is only one reproach to be made—that they did not have the genius of Balzac. But we may criticise more severely the so-called historical writings about Mme. de Combray, her family and residences, and the Chateau of Tournebut which M. Homberg shows us flanked by four feudal towers, and which MM. Le Prevost and Bourdon say was demolished in 1807.
Mme. d'Abrantes, with her usual veracity, describes the luxurious furniture and huge lamps in the "labyrinths of Tournebut, of which one must, as it were, have a plan, so as not to lose one's way." She shows us Le Chevalier, crucifix in hand, haranguing the assailants in the wood of Quesnay (although he was in Paris that day to prove an alibi), and gravely adds, "I know some one who was in the coach and who alone survived, the seven other travellers having been massacred and their bodies left on the road." Now there was neither coach nor travellers, and no one was killed!
M. de la Sicotiere's mistakes are still stranger. At the time that he was preparing his great work on "Frotte and the Norman Insurrections," he learned from M. Gustave Bord that I had some special facts concerning Mme. de Combray, and wrote to ask me about them. I sent him a resume of Moisson's story, and asked him to verify its correctness. And on that he went finely astray.
Mme. de Combray had two residences besides her house at Rouen; one at Aubevoye, where she had lived for a long while, the other thirty leagues away, at Donnay, in the department of Orne, where she no longer went, as her son-in-law had settled himself there. Two towers have the same name of Tournebut; the one at Aubevoye is ours; the other, some distance from Donnay, did not belong to Mme. de Combray.
Convinced solely by the assertions of MM. Le Prevost and Bourdon that in 1804 the Chateau of Aubevoye and its tower no longer existed, and that Mme. de Combray occupied Donnay at that date, M. de la Sicotiere naturally mistook one Tournebut for the other, did not understand a single word of Moisson's story, which he treated as a chimera, and in his book acknowledges my communications in this disdainful note:
"Confusion has arisen in many minds between the two Tournebuts, so different, however, and at such a distance from each other, and has given birth to many strange and romantic legends; inaccessible retreats arranged for outlaws and bandits in the old tower, nocturnal apparitions, innocent victims paying with their lives the misfortune of having surprised the secrets of these terrible guests...."
It is pleasant to see M. de la Sicotiere point out the confusion he alone experienced. But there is better to come! Here is a writer who gives us in two large volumes the history of Norman Chouannerie. There is little else spoken of in his book than disguises, false names, false papers, ambushes, kidnappings, attacks on coaches, subterranean passages, prisons, escapes, child spies and female captains! He states himself that the affair of the Forest of Quesnay was "tragic, strange and mysterious!" And at the same time he condemns as "strange" and "romantic" the simplest of all these adventures—that of Moisson! He scoffs at his hiding-places in the roofs of the old chateau, and it is precisely in the roofs of the old chateau that the police found the famous refuge which could hold forty men with ease. He calls the retreats arranged for the outlaws and bandits "legendary," at the same time that he gives two pages to the enumeration of the holes, vaults, wells, pits, grottoes and caverns in which these same bandits and outlaws found safety! So that M. de la Sicotiere seems to be laughing at himself!
I should reproach myself if I did not mention, as a curiosity, the biography of M. and Mme. de Combray, united in one person in the "Dictionaire Historique" (!!!) of Larousse. It is unique of its kind. Names, places and facts are all wrong. And the crowning absurdity is that, borne out by these fancies, fragments are given of the supposed Memoires that Felicie (!) de Combray wrote after the Restoration—forgetting that she was guillotined under the Empire!
With M. Ernest Daudet we return to history. No one had seriously studied the crime of Quesnay before him. Some years ago he gave the correct story of it in Le Temps and we could not complain of its being only what he meant it to be—a faithful and rapid resume. Besides, M. Daudet had only at his disposal the portfolios 8,170, 8,171, and 8,172 of the Series F7 of the National Archives, and the reports sent to Real by Savoye-Rollin and Licquet, this cunning detective beside whom Balzac's Corentin seems a mere schoolboy. Consequently the family drama escapes M. Daudet, who, for that matter, did not have to concern himself with it. It would not have been possible to do better than he did with the documents within his reach.
Lenotre has pushed his researches further. He has not limited himself to studying, bit by bit, the voluminous report of the trial of 1808, which fills a whole cupboard; to comparing and opposing the testimony of the witnesses one against the other, examining the reports and enquiries, disentangling the real names from the false, truth from error—in a word, investigating the whole affair, a formidable task of which he only gives us the substance here. Aided by his wonderful instinct and the persistency of the investigator, he has managed to obtain access to family papers, some of which were buried in old trunks relegated to the attics, and in these papers has found precious documents which clear up the depths of this affair of Quesnay where the mad passion of one poor woman plays the greatest part.
And let no one imagine that he is going to read a romance in these pages. It is an historical study in the severest meaning of the word. Lenotre mentions no fact that he cannot prove. He risks no hypothesis without giving it as such, and admits no fancy in the slightest detail. If he describes one of Mme. Acquet's toilettes, it is because it is given in some interrogation. I have seen him so scrupulous on this point, as to suppress all picturesqueness that could be put down to his imagination. In no cause celebre has justice shown more exactitude in exposing the facts. In short, here will be found all the qualities that ensured the success of his "Conspiration de la Rouerie," the chivalrous beginning of the Chouannerie that he now shows us in its decline, reduced to highway robbery!
As for me, if I have lingered too long by this old tower, it is because it suggested this book; and we owe some gratitude to these mute witnesses of a past which they keep in our remembrance.
The House of the Combrays
THE TREACHERY OF JEAN-PIERRE QUERELLE
Late at night on January the 25th, 1804, the First Consul, who, as it often happened, had arisen in order to work till daylight, was looking over the latest police reports that had been placed on his desk.
His death was talked of everywhere. It had already been announced positively in London, Germany and Holland. "To assassinate Bonaparte" was a sort of game, in which the English were specially active. From their shores, well-equipped and plentifully supplied with money, sailed many who were desirous of gaining the great stake,—obdurate Chouans and fanatical royalists who regarded as an act of piety the crime that would rid France of the usurper. What gave most cause for alarm in these reports, usually unworthy of much attention, was the fact that all of them were agreed on one point—Georges Cadoudal had disappeared. Since this man, formidable by reason of his courage and tenacity of purpose, had declared war without mercy on the First Consul, the police had never lost sight of him. It was known that he was staying in England, and he was under surveillance there; but if it was true that he had escaped this espionage, the danger was imminent, and the predicted "earthquake" at hand.
Bonaparte, more irritated than uneasy at these tales, wished to remove all doubt about the matter. He mistrusted Fouche, whose devotion he had reason to suspect, and who besides had not at this time—officially at least—the superintendence of the police; and he had attached to himself a dangerous spy, the Belgian Real. It was on this man that Bonaparte, on certain occasions, preferred to rely. Real was a typical detective. The friend of Danton, he had in former days, organised the great popular manifestations that were to intimidate the Convention. He had penetrated the terrible depths of the Revolutionary Tribunal, and the Committee of Public Safety. He knew and understood how to make use of what remained of the old committees of sections, of "septembriseurs" without occupation, lacqueys, perfumers, dentists, dancing masters without pupils, all the refuse of the revolution, the women of the Palais-Royal: such was the army he commanded, having as his lieutenants Desmarets, an unfrocked priest, and Veyrat, formerly a Genevese convict, who had been branded and whipped by the public executioner. Real and these two subalterns were the principal actors in the drama that we are about to relate.
On this night Bonaparte sent in haste for Real. In his usual manner, by brief questions he soon learned the number of royalists confined in the tower of the Temple or at Bicetre, their names, and on what suspicions they had been arrested. Quickly satisfied on all these points he ordered that before daylight four of the most deeply implicated of the prisoners should be taken before a military commission; if they revealed nothing they were to be shot in twenty-four hours. Aroused at five o'clock in the morning, Desmarets was told to prepare the list, and the first two names indicated were those of Picot and Lebourgeois. Picot was one of Frotte's old officers, and during the wars of the Chouannerie had been commander-in-chief of the Auge division. He had earned the surname of "Egorge-Bleus" and was a Chevalier of St. Louis. Lebourgeois, keeper of a coffee-house at Rouen, had been accused about the year 1800 of taking part in an attack on a stage-coach, was acquitted, and like his friend Picot, had emigrated to England. Both of these men had been denounced by a professional instigator as having "been heard to say" that they had come to attempt the life of the First Consul. They had been arrested at Pont-Audemer as soon as they returned to France, and had now been imprisoned in the Temple for nearly a year.
To these two victims Desmarets added another Chouan, Pioge, nicknamed "Without Pity" or "Strike-to-Death," and Desol de Grisolles, an old companion of Georges and "a very dangerous royalist." And then, to show his zeal, he added a fifth name to the list, that of Querelle, ex-surgeon of marine, arrested four months previously, under slight suspicion, but described in the report as a poor-spirited creature of whom "something might be expected."
"This one," said Bonaparte on reading the name of Querelle, and the accompanying note, "is more of an intriguer than a fanatic; he will speak."
The same day the five, accused of enticing away soldiers and corresponding with the enemies of the Republic, were led before a military commission over which General Duplessis presided; Desol and Pioge were acquitted, returned to the hands of the government and immediately reincarcerated. Picot, Lebourgeois and Querelle, condemned to death, were transferred to the Abbaye there to await their execution on the following day.
"There must be no delay, you understand," said Bonaparte, "I will not have it."
But nevertheless it was necessary to give a little time for the courage of the prisoners to fail, and for the police to aid in bringing this about.
There was nothing to be expected of Picot or Lebourgeois; they knew nothing of the conspiracy and were resigned to their fate; but their deaths could be used to intimidate Querelle who was less firm, and the authorities did not fail to make the most of the opportunity. He was allowed to be present during all the preparations; he witnessed the arrival of the soldiers who were to shoot his companions; he saw them depart and was immediately told that it was "now his turn." Then to prolong his agony he was left alone in the gloomy chamber where Maillard's tribunal had formerly sat. This tragic room was lighted by a small, strongly-barred window looking out on the square. From this window the doomed man saw the soldiers who were to take him to the plain of Grenelle drawn up in the narrow square and perceived the crowd indulging in rude jokes while they waited for him to come out. One of the soldiers had dismounted and tied his horse to the bars of the window; while within the prison the noise of quick footsteps was heard, doors opening and shutting heavily, all indicating the last preparations....
Querelle remained silent for a long time, crouched up in a corner. Suddenly, as if fear had driven him mad, he began to call desperately, crying that he did not want to die, that he would tell all he knew, imploring his gaolers to fly to the First Consul and obtain his pardon, at the same time calling with sobs upon General Murat, Governor of Paris, swearing that he would make a complete avowal if only he would command the soldiers to return to their quarters. Although Murat could see nothing in these ravings but a pretext for gaining a few hours of life, he felt it his duty to refer the matter to the First Consul, who sent word of it to Real. All this had taken some time and meanwhile the unfortunate Querelle, seeing the soldiers still under his window and the impatient crowd clamouring for his appearance, was in the last paroxysm of despair. When Real opened the door he saw, cowering on the flags and shaking with fear, a little man with a pockmarked face, black hair, a thin and pointed nose and grey eyes continually contracted by a nervous affection.
"You have announced your intention of making some revelations," said Real; "I have come to hear them."
But the miserable creature could scarcely articulate. Real was obliged to reassure him, to have him carried into another room, and to hold out hopes of mercy if his confessions were sufficiently important. At last, still trembling, and in broken words, with great effort the prisoner confessed that he had been in Paris for six months, having come from London with Georges Cadoudal and six of his most faithful officers; they had been joined there by a great many more from Bretagne or England; there were now more than one hundred of them hidden in Paris, waiting for an opportunity to carry off Bonaparte, or to assassinate him. He added more details as he grew calmer. A boat from the English navy had landed them at Biville near Dieppe; there a man from Eu or Treport had met them and conducted them a little way from the shore to a farm of which Querelle did not know the name. They left again in the night, and in this way, from farm to farm, they journeyed to Paris where they did not meet until Georges called them together; they received their pay in a manner agreed upon. His own share was deposited under a stone in the Champs Elysees every week, and he fetched it from there. A "gentleman" had come to meet them at the last stage of their journey, near the village of Saint-Leu-Taverny, to prepare for their entry into Paris and help them to pass the barrier.
One point stood out boldly in all these revelations: Georges was in Paris! Real, whose account we have followed, left Querelle and hastened to the Tuileries. The First Consul was in the hands of Constant, his valet, when the detective was announced. Noticing his pallor, Bonaparte supposed he had just come from the execution of the three condemned men.
"It is over, isn't it?" he said.
"No, General," replied Real.
And seeing his hesitation the Consul continued: "You may speak before Constant."
"Well then,—Georges and his band are in Paris."
On hearing the name of the only man he feared Bonaparte turned round quickly, made the sign of the cross, and taking Real by the sleeve led him into the adjoining room.
So the First Consul's police, so numerous, so careful, and so active, the police who according to the Moniteur "had eyes everywhere," had been at fault for six months! A hundred reports were daily piled up on Real's table, and not one of them had mentioned the goings and comings of Georges, who travelled with his Chouans from Dieppe to Paris, supported a little army, and planned his operations with as much liberty as if he were in London. These revelations were so alarming that they preferred not to believe them. Querelle must have invented this absurd story as a last resource for prolonging his life. To set at rest all doubt on this subject he must be convinced of the imposture. If it was true that he had accompanied the "brigands" from the sea to Paris, he could, on travelling over the route, show their different halting-places. If he could do this his life was to be spared.
From the 27th January, when he made his first declarations, Querelle was visited every night by Real or Desmarets who questioned him minutely. The unfortunate creature had sustained such a shock, that, even while maintaining his avowals, he would be seized with fits of madness, and beating his breast, would fall on his knees and call on those whom fear of death had caused him to denounce, imploring their pardon. When he learned what was expected of him he appeared to be overwhelmed, not at the number of victims he was going to betray, but because he was aghast at the idea of leading the detectives over a road that he had traversed only at night, and that he feared he might not remember. The expedition set out on February 3d. Real had taken the precaution to have an escort of gendarmes for the prisoner whom Georges and his followers might try to rescue. The detachment was commanded by a zealous and intelligent officer, Lieutenant Manginot, assisted by a giant called Pasque, an astute man celebrated for the sureness of his attack. They left Paris at dawn by the Saint-Denis gate and took the road to l'Isle-Adam.
The first day's search was without result. Querelle thought he remembered that a house in the village of Taverny had sheltered the Chouans the night before their entry into Paris; but at the time he had not paid any attention to localities, and in spite of his efforts, he could be positive of nothing. The next day they took the Pontoise road from Pierrelaye to Franconville,—with no more success. They returned towards Taverny by Ermont, le Plessis-Bouchard and the Chateau de Boissy. Querelle, who knew that his life was at stake, showed a feverish eagerness which was not shared by Pasque nor Manginot, who were now fully persuaded that the prisoner had only wanted to gain time, or some chance of escape. They thought of abandoning the search and returning to Paris, but Querelle begged so vehemently for twenty-four hours' reprieve that Manginot weakened. The third day, therefore, they explored the environs of Taverny and the borders of the forest as far as Bessancourt. Querelle now led them by chance, thinking he recognised a group of trees, a turn of the road, even imagining he had found a farm "by the particular manner in which the dog barked."
At last, worn out, the little band were returning to Paris when, on passing through the village of Saint-Leu, Querelle gave a triumphant cry! He had just recognised the long-looked for house, and he gave so exact a description of it and its inhabitants that Pasque did not hesitate to interrogate the proprietor, a vine-dresser named Denis Lamotte. He laid great stress on the fact that he had a son in the service of an officer of the Consul's guard; his other son, Vincent Lamotte, lived with him. The worthy man appeared very much surprised at the invasion of his house, but his peasant cunning could not long withstand the professional cleverness of the detective, and after a few minutes he gave up.
He admitted that at the beginning of July last he had received a person calling himself Houvel, or Saint-Vincent, who under pretence of buying some wine, had proposed to him to lodge seven or eight persons for a night. Lamotte had accepted. On the evening of the 30th August Houvel had reappeared and told him that the men would arrive that night. He went to fetch them in the neighbourhood of l'Isle-Adam, and his son Vincent accompanied him to serve as guide to the travellers, whom he met on the borders of the wood of La Muette. They numbered seven, one of whom, very stout and covered with sweat, stopped in the wood to change his shirt. They all appeared to be very tired, and only two of them were on horseback. They arrived at Lamotte's house at Saint-Leu about two o'clock in the morning; the horses were stabled and the men stretched themselves out on the straw in one of the rooms of the house. Lamotte noticed that each of them carried two pistols. They slept long and had dinner about twelve o'clock. Two individuals, who had driven from Paris and left their cabriolets, one at the "White Cross" the other at the "Crown," talked with the travellers who, about seven o'clock, resumed their journey to the capital. Each of the "individuals" took one in his cab; two went on horseback and the others awaited the phaeton which ran between Taverny and Paris.
This account tallied so well with Querelle's declarations that there was no longer any room for doubt. The band of seven was composed of Georges and his staff; the "stout man" was Georges himself, and Querelle gave the names of the others, all skilful and formidable Chouans. Lamotte, on his part, did not hesitate to name the one who had conducted the "brigands" to the wood of La Muette. He was called Nicolas Massignon, a farmer of Jouy-le-Comte. Pasque set out with his gendarmes, and Massignon admitted that he had brought the travellers from across the Oise to the Avenue de Nesles, his brother, Jean-Baptiste Massignon, a farmer of Saint-Lubin, having conducted them thither. Pasque immediately took the road to Saint-Lubin and marched all night. At four o'clock in the morning he arrived at the house of Jean-Baptiste, who, surprised in jumping out of bed, remembered that he had put up some men that his brother-in-law, Quentin-Rigaud, a cultivator at Auteuil, had brought there. Pasque now held four links of the chain, and Manginot started for the country to follow the track of the conspirators to the sea. Savary had preceded him in order to surprise a new disembarkation announced by Querelle. Arrived at the coast he perceived, at some distance, an English brig tacking, but in spite of all their precautions to prevent her taking alarm, the vessel did not come in. They saw her depart on a signal given on shore by a young man on horseback, whom Savary's gendarmes pursued as far as the forest of Eu, where he disappeared.
In twelve days, always accompanied by Querelle, Manginot had ended his quest, and put into the hands of Real such a mass of depositions that it was possible, as we shall show, to reconstruct the voyage of Georges and his companions to Paris from the sea.
On the night of August 23, 1803, the English cutter "Vincejo," commanded by Captain Wright, had landed the conspirators at the foot of the cliffs of Biville, a steep wall of rocks and clay three hundred and twenty feet high. From time immemorial, in the place called the hollow of Parfonval there had existed an "estamperche," a long cord fixed to some piles, which was used by the country people for descending to the beach. It was necessary to pull oneself up this long rope by the arms, a most painful proceeding for a man as corpulent as Georges. At last the seven Chouans were gathered at the top of the cliff, and under the guidance of Troche, son of the former procureur of the commune of Eu, and one of the most faithful adherents of the party, they arrived at the farm of La Poterie, near the hamlet of Heudelimont, about two leagues from the coast. Whilst the farmer, Detrimont, was serving them drinks, a mysterious personage, who called himself M. Beaumont, came to consult with them. He was a tall man, with the figure of a Hercules, a swarthy complexion, a high forehead and black eyebrows and hair. He disappeared in the early morning.
Georges and his companions spent the whole of the 24th at La Poterie. They left the farm in the night and marched five leagues to Preuseville, where a M. Loisel sheltered them. The route was cleverly planned not to leave the vast forest of Eu, which provided shaded roads, and in case of alarm, almost impenetrable hiding-places. On the night of the 26th they again covered five leagues, through the forest of Eu, arriving at Aumale at two o'clock in the morning, and lodging with a man called Monnier, who occupied the ancient convent of the Dominican Nuns. "The stout man" rode a black horse which Monnier, for want of a stable, hid in a corridor in the house, the halter tied to the key of the door. As for the men, they threw themselves pell-mell on some straw, and did not go out during the day. M. Beaumont had reappeared at Aumale. He arrived on horseback and, after passing an hour with the conspirators, had left in the direction of Quincampoix. They had seen him again with Boniface Colliaux, called Boni, at their next stage, Feuquieres, four leagues off, which they reached on the night of the 27th. They passed the 28th with Leclerc, five leagues further on, at the farm of Monceaux which belonged to the Count d'Hardivilliers, situated in the commune of Saint-Omer-en-Chaussee. From there, avoiding Beauvais, the son of Leclerc had guided them to the house of Quentin-Rigaud at Auteuil, and on the 29th he had taken them to Massignon, the farmer of Saint-Lubin, who in turn had passed them on, the next day, to his brother Nicolas, charged, as we have seen, to help them cross the Oise and direct them to the wood of La Muette, where Denis Lamotte, the vine-dresser of Saint-Leu, had come to fetch them.
Such was the result of Manginot's enquiries. He had reconstructed Georges' itinerary with most remarkable perspicacity and this was the more important as the chain of stations from the sea to Paris necessitated long and careful organisation, and as the conspirators used the route frequently. Thus, two men mentioned in the disembarkation of August 23d had returned to Biville in mid-September. On October 2d Georges and three of his officers, coming from Paris, had again presented themselves before Lamotte, who had conducted them to the wood of La Muette, where Massignon was waiting for them. It was proved that their journeys had been made with perfect regularity; the same guides, the same night marches, the same hiding-places by day. The house of Boniface Colliaux at Feuquieres, that of Monnier at Aumale, and the farm of La Poterie seemed to be the principal meeting-places. Another passage took place in the second fortnight of November, and another in December, corresponding to a new disembarkation. In January, 1804, Georges made the journey for the fourth time, to await at Biville the English corvette bringing Pichegru, the Marquis de Riviere and four other conspirators. A fisherman called Etienne Horne gave some valuable details of this arrival. He had noticed particularly the man who appeared to be the leader—"a fat man, with a full, rather hard face, round-shouldered, and with a slight trouble in his arms."
"These gentlemen," he added, "usually arrived at night, and left about midnight; they were satisfied with our humble fare, and always kept together in a corner, talking."
When the tide was full Horne went down to the beach to watch for the sloop. The password was "Jacques," to which the men in the boat replied "Thomas."
Manginot, as may well be imagined, arrested all who in any way had assisted the conspirators, and hurried them off to Paris. The tower of the Temple became crowded with peasants, with women in Normandy caps, and fishermen of Dieppe, dumbfounded at finding themselves in the famous place where the monarchy had suffered its last torments. But these were only the small fry of the conspiracy, and the First Consul, who liked to pose as the victim exposed to the blows of an entire party, could not with decency take these inoffensive peasants before a high court of justice. While waiting for chance or more treachery to reveal the refuge of Georges Cadoudal, the discovery of the organisers of the plot was most important, and this seemed well-nigh impossible, although Manginot had reason to think that the centre of the conspiracy was near Aumale or Feuquieres.
His attention had been attracted by a deposition mentioning the black horse that Georges had ridden from Preuseville to Aumale—the one that the school-master Monnier had hidden in a corridor of his house. With this slight clue he started for the country. There he learned that a workman called Saint-Aubin, who lived in the hamlet of Coppegueule, had been ordered to take the horse to an address on a letter which Monnier had given him. This man, when called upon to appear, remembered that he had led the horse "to a fine house in the environs of Gournay." When he arrived there a servant had taken the animal to the stables, and a lady had come out and asked for the letter, but he denied all knowledge of the lady's name or the situation of the house.
Manginot resolved to search the country in company with Saint-Aubin, but he was either stupid or pretended to be so, and refused to give any assistance. He led the gendarmes six leagues, as far as Aumale, and said, at first, that he recognised the Chateau de Mercatet-sur-Villers, but on looking carefully at the avenues and the arrangement of the buildings, he declared he had never been there. The same thing happened at Beaulevrier and at Mothois; but on approaching Gournay his memory returned, and he led Manginot to a house in the hamlet of Saint-Clair which he asserted was the one to which Monnier had sent him. On entering the courtyard he recognised the servant to whom he had given the horse six months before, a groom named Joseph Planchon. Manginot instantly arrested the man, and then began his search.
The house belonged to an ex-officer of marine, Francois Robert d'Ache, who rarely occupied it, being an ardent sportsman and preferring his estates near Neufchatel-en-Bray, where there was more game. Saint-Clair was occupied by Mme. d'Ache, an invalid who rarely left her room, and her two daughters, Louise and Alexandrine, as well as d'Ache's mother, a bedridden octogenarian, and a young man named Caqueray, who was also called the Chevalier de Lorme, who farmed the lands of M. and Mme. d'Ache, whose property had recently been separated by law. Caqueray looked upon himself as one of the family, and Louise, the eldest girl, was betrothed to him.
Nothing could have been less suspicious than the members of this patriarchal household, who seemed to know nothing of politics, and whose tranquil lives were apparently unaffected by revolutions. The absence of the head of so united a family was the only astonishing thing about it. But Mme. d'Ache and her daughters explained that he was bored at Saint-Clair and usually lived in Rouen, that he hunted a great deal, and spent his time between his relatives who lived near Gaillon and friends at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. They could not say where he was at present, having had no news of him for two months.
But on questioning the servants Manginot learned some facts that changed the aspect of affairs. Lambert, the gardener, had recently been shot at Evreux, convicted of having taken part with a band of Chouans in an attack on the stage-coach, Caqueray's brother had just been executed for the same cause at Rouen. Constant Prevot, a farm hand, accused of having killed a gendarme, had been acquitted, but died soon after his return to Saint-Clair. Manginot had unearthed a nest of Chouans, and only when he learned that the description of d'Ache was singularly like that of the mysterious Beaumont who had been seen with Georges at La Poterie, Aumale and Feuquieres, did he understand the importance of his discovery. After a rapid and minute inquiry, he took it upon himself to arrest every one at Saint-Clair, and sent an express to Real, informing him of the affair, and asking for further instructions.
It had been the custom for several years, when a person was denounced to the police as an enemy of the government, or a simple malcontent, to have his name put up in Desmarets' office, and to add to it, in proportion to the denunciations, every bit of information that could help to make a complete portrait of the individual. That of d'Ache was consulted. There were found annotations of this sort: "By reason of his audacity he is one of the most important of the royalists," "Last December he took a passport at Rouen for Saint-Germain-en-Laye, where he was called by business," "His host at Saint-Germain, Brandin de Saint-Laurent, declares that he did not sleep there regularly, sometimes two, sometimes three days at a time." At last a letter was intercepted addressed to Mme. d'Ache, containing this phrase, which they recognised as Georges' style: "Tell M. Durand that things are taking a good turn,... his presence is necessary.... He will have news of me at the Hotel de Bordeaux, rue de Grenelle, Saint-Honore, where he will ask for Houvel." Now Houvel was the unknown man who, first of all, had gone to the vine-dresser of Saint-Leu to persuade him to aid the "brigands." Thus d'Ache's route was traced from Biville to Paris and the conclusion drawn that, knowing all the country about Bray, where he owned estates, he had been chosen to arrange the itinerary of the conspirators and to organise their journeys. He had accompanied them from La Poterie to Feuquieres, sometimes going before them, sometimes staying with them in the farms where he had found for them places of refuge.
In default of Georges, then, d'Ache was the next best person to seize, and the First Consul appreciated this fact so keenly that he organised two brigades of picked soldiers and fifty dragoons. But they only served to escort poor sick Mme. d'Ache, her daughter Louise and their friend Caqueray, who were immediately locked up—the last named in the Tower of the Temple, and the two women in the Madelonnettes. The infirm old grandmother remained at Saint-Clair, while Alexandrine wished to follow her mother and sister, and was left quite at liberty. But d'Ache could not be found. Manginot's army had searched the whole country, from Beauvais to Treport, without success; they had sought him at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, where he was said to be hidden, at Saint-Denis-de-Monts, at Saint-Romain, at Rouen. The prefects of Eure and Seine-Inferieure were ordered to set all their police on his track. The result of this campaign was pitiable, and they only succeeded in arresting d'Ache's younger brother, an inoffensive fellow of feeble mind, appropriately named "Placide," who was nicknamed "Tourlour," on account of his lack of wit and his rotundity. His greatest fear was of being mistaken for his brother, which frequently happened. As the elder d'Ache could never be caught, Placide, who loved tranquillity and hardly ever went away from home, was invariably taken in his stead. It happened again this time, and Manginot seized him, thinking he had done a fine thing. But the first interview undeceived him. However, he sent word of his capture to Real, who, in his zeal to execute the First Consul's orders, took upon himself to determine that Placide d'Ache was as dangerous a royalist "brigand" as his brother. He ordered the prisoner to be brought under a strong escort to Paris, determining to interrogate him himself. But as soon as he had seen "Tourlour," and had asked him a few questions, including one as to his behaviour during the Terror, and received for answer, "I hid myself with mamma," Real understood that such a man could not be brought before a tribunal as a rival to Bonaparte. He kept him, however, in prison, so that the name of d'Ache could appear on the gaol-book of the Temple.
In the meantime, on the 9th of March 1804, at the hour when Placide d'Ache was being interrogated, an event occurred, which transformed the drama and hastened its tragic denouement.
THE CAPTURE OF GEORGES CADOUDAL
Georges had arrived in Paris on September 1, 1803, in a yellow cabriolet driven by the Marquis d'Hozier dressed as a coachman. D'Hozier, who was formerly page to the King and had for several months been established as a livery-stable keeper in the Rue Vieille-du-Temple, conducted Georges to the Hotel de Bordeaux, kept by the widow Dathy, in the Rue de Grenelle-Saint-Honore.
The task of finding hiding-places in Paris for the conspirators, had been given to Houvel, called Saint-Vincent, whom we have already seen at Saint-Leu. Houvel's real name was Raoul Gaillard. A perfect type of the incorrigible Chouan, he was a fine-looking man of thirty, fresh-complexioned, with white teeth and a ready smile, and dressed in the prevailing fashion. He was a close companion of d'Ache, and it was even said that they had the same mistress at Rouen. The speciality of Raoul and his brother Armand was attacking coaches which carried government money. Their takings served to pay recruits to the royalist cause. For the past six months Raoul Gaillard had been in Paris looking for safe lodging-places. He was assisted in this delicate task by Bouvet de Lozier, another of d'Ache's intimate friends, who like him, had served in the navy before the Revolution.
Georges went first to Raoul Gaillard at the Hotel de Bordeaux, but he left in the evening and slept with Denaud at the "Cloche d'Or," at the corner of the Rue du Bac, and the Rue de Varenne. He was joined there by his faithful servant Louis Picot, who had arrived in Paris the same day. The "Cloche d'Or" was a sort of headquarters for the conspirators; they filled the house, and Denaud was entirely at their service. He was devoted to the cause, and not at all timid. He had placed Georges' cab in the stable of Senator Francois de Neufchateau, whose house was next door.
Six weeks before, Bouvet de Lozier had taken, through Mme. Costard de Saint-Leger, his mistress, an isolated house at Chaillot near the Seine. He had put there as concierge, a man named Daniel and his wife, both of whom he knew to be devoted to him. A porch with fourteen steps led to the front hall of the house. This served as dining-room. It was lighted by four windows and paved with squares of black and white marble; a walnut table with eight covers, cane-seated chairs, the door-panels representing the games of children, and striped India muslin curtains completed the decoration of this room. The next room had also four windows, and contained an ottoman and six chairs covered with blue and white Utrecht velvet, two armchairs of brocaded silk, and two mahogany tables with marble tops. Then came the bedroom with a four-post bed, consoles and mirrors. On the first floor was an apartment of three rooms, and in an adjoining building, a large hall which could be used as an assembly-room. The whole was surrounded by a large garden, closed on the side towards the river-bank by strong double gates.
If we have lingered over this description, it is because it seems to say so much. Who would have imagined that this elegant little house had been rented by Georges to shelter himself and his companions? These men, whose disinterestedness and tenacity we cannot but admire, who for ten years had fought with heroic fortitude for the royal cause, enduring the hardest privations, braving tempests, sleeping on straw and marching at night; these men whose bodies were hardened by exposure and fatigue, retained a purity of mind and sincerity really touching. They never ceased to believe that "the Prince" for whom they fought would one day come and share their danger. It had been so often announced and so often put off that a little mistrust might have been forgiven them, but they had faith, and that inspired them with a thought which seemed quite simple to them but which was really sublime. While they were lodging in holes, living on a pittance parsimoniously taken from the party's funds, they kept a comfortable and secure retreat ready, where "their prince"—who was never to come—could wait at his ease, until at the price of their lives, they had assured the success of his cause. If the history of our bloody feuds has always an epic quality, it is because it abounds in examples of blind devotion, so impossible nowadays that they seem to us improbable exaggerations.
After six days at the "Cloche d'Or," Georges took possession of the house at Chaillot, but he did not stay there long, for about the 25th of September he was at 21 Rue Careme-Prenant in the Faubourg du Temple. Hozier had rented an entresol there, and had employed a man called Spain, who had an aptitude for this sort of work, to make a secret place in it. Spain, under pretence of indispensable repairs, had shut himself up with his tools in the apartment, and had made a cleverly-concealed trap-door, by means of which, in case of alarm, the tenants could descend to the ground floor and go out by an unoccupied shop whose door opened under the porch of the house. Spain took a sort of pride in his strange talent; he was very proud of a hiding-place he had made in the lodging of a friend, the tailor Michelot, in the Rue de Bussy, which Michelot himself did not suspect. The tailor was obliged to be absent often, and four of the conspirators had successively lodged there. When he was away his lodgers "limbered up" in this apartment, but as soon as they heard his step on the stairs, they reentered their cell, and the worthy Michelot, who vaguely surmised that there was some mystery about his house, only solved the enigma when he was cited to appear before the tribunal as an accomplice in the royalist plot of which he had never even heard the name.
Georges started for his first journey to Biville from the Rue Careme-Prenant. On January 23d he returned finally to Paris, bringing with him Pichegru, Jules de Polignac and the Marquis de Riviere, whom he had gone to the farm of La Poterie to receive. He lodged Pichegru with an employe of the finance department, named Verdet, who had given the Chouans the second floor of his house in the Rue du Puits-de-l'Hermite. They stayed there three days. On the 27th, Georges took the general to the house at Chaillot "where they only slept a few nights." At the very moment that they went there Querelle signed his first declarations before Real.
It is not necessary to follow the movements of Pichegru, nor to relate his interviews with Moreau. The organisation of the plot is what interests us, by reason of the part taken in it by d'Ache. No one has ever explained what might have resulted politically from the combination of Moreau's embittered ambition, the insouciance of Pichegru, and the fanatical ardour of Georges. Of this ill-assorted trio the latter alone had decided on action, although he was handicapped by the obstinacy of the princes in refusing to come to the fore until the throne was reestablished. He told the truth when he affirmed before the judges, later on, that he had only come to France to attempt a restoration, the means for which were never decided on, for they had not agreed on the manner in which they should act towards Bonaparte. A strange plan had at first been suggested. The Comte d'Artois, at the head of a band of royalists equal in number to the Consul's escort, was to meet him on the road to Malmaison, and provoke him to single combat, but the presence of the Prince was necessary for this revival of the Combat of Thirty, and as he refused to appear, this project of rather antiquated chivalry had to be abandoned. Their next idea was to kidnap Bonaparte. Some determined men—as all of Georges' companions were—undertook to get into the park at Malmaison at night, seize Bonaparte and throw him into a carriage which thirty Chouans, dressed as dragoons, would escort as far as the coast. They actually began to put this theatrical "coup" into execution. Mention is made of it in the Memoirs of the valet Constant, and certain details of the investigation confirm these assertions. Raoul Gaillard, who still lived at the Hotel de Bordeaux, and entertained his friends Denis Lamotte, the vine-dresser of Saint-Leu and Massignon, farmer of Saint-Lubin there, had discovered that Massignon leased some land from Macheret, the First Consul's coachman, and had determined at all hazards to make this man's acquaintance. He even had the audacity to show himself at the Chateau of Saint-Cloud in the hope of meeting him. Besides this, Genty, a tailor in the Palais-Royal, had delivered four chasseur uniforms, ordered by Raoul Gaillard, and Debausseaux, a tailor at Aumale, during one of their journeys had measured some of Monnier's guests for cloaks and breeches of green cloth, which only needed metal buttons to be transformed into dragoon uniforms.
Querelle's denunciations put a stop to all these preparations. Nothing remained but to run to earth again. A great many of the conspirators succeeded in doing this, but all were not so fortunate. The first one seized by Real's men was Louis Picot, Georges' servant. He was a coarse, rough man, entirely devoted to his master, under whose orders he had served in the Veudee. He was taken to the Prefecture and promised immediate liberty in exchange for one word that would put the police on the track of Georges. He was offered 1,500 louis d'or, which they took care to count out before him, and on his refusal to betray his master, Real had him put to the torture. Bertrand, the concierge of the depot, undertook the task. The unfortunate Picot's fingers were crushed by means of an old gun and a screw-driver, his feet were burned in the presence of the officers of the guard. He revealed nothing. "He has borne everything with criminal resignation," the judge-inquisitor, Thuriot, wrote to Real; "he is a fanatic, hardened by crime. I have now left him to solitude and suffering; I will begin again to-morrow; he knows where Georges is hidden and must be made to reveal it."
The next day the torture was continued, and this time agony wrung the address of the Chaillot house from Picot. They hastened there—only to find it empty. But the day had not been wasted, for the police, on an anonymous accusation, had seized Bouvet de Lozier as he was entering the house of his mistress, Mme. de Saint-Leger, in the Rue Saint-Sauveur. He was interrogated and denied everything. Thrown into the Temple, he hanged himself in the night, by tying his necktie to the bars of his cell. A gaoler hearing his death-rattle, opened the door and took him down; but Bouvet, three-quarters dead, as soon as they had brought him to, was seized with convulsive tremblings, and in his delirium he spoke.
This attempted suicide, to tell the truth, was only half believed in, and many people, having heard of the things that were done in the Temple and the Prefecture, believed that Bouvet had been assisted in his strangling, just as they had put Picot's feet to the fire. What gave colour to these suspicions was the fact that Bouvet's hands "were horribly swollen" when he appeared before Real the next day, and also the strange form of the declaration which he was reputed to have dictated at midnight, just as he was restored to life. "A man who comes from the gates of the tomb, still covered with the shadows of death, demands vengeance on those who, by their perfidy," etc. Many were agreed in thinking that that was not the style of a suicide, with the death-rattle still in his throat, but that Real's agents must have lent their eloquence to this half-dead creature.
However it may have been, the government now knew enough to order the most rigorous measures to be taken against the "last royalists." Bouvet had, like Picot, only been able to mention the house at Chaillot, and the lodging in the Rue Careme-Prenant, and Georges' retreat was still undiscovered. The revelations that fear or torture had drawn from his associates only served to make the figure of this extraordinary man loom greater, by showing the power of his ascendancy over his companions, and the mystery that surrounded all his actions. A legend grew around his name, and the communications published by Le Moniteur, contributed not a little towards making him a sort of fantastic personage, whom one expected to see arise suddenly, and by one grand theatrical stroke put an end to the Revolution.
Paris lived in a fever of excitement during the first days of March, 1804, anxiously following this duel to the death, between the First Consul and this phantom-man who, shut up in the town and constantly seen about, still remained uncaught. The barriers were closed as in the darkest days of the Terror. Patrols, detectives and gendarmes held all the streets; the soldiers of the garrison had departed, with loaded arms, to the boulevards outside the walls. White placards announced that "Those who concealed the brigands would be classed with the brigands themselves"; the penalty of death attached to any one who should shelter one of them, even for twenty-four hours, without denouncing him to the police. The description of Georges and his accomplices was inserted in all the papers, distributed in leaflets, and posted on the walls. Their last domicile was mentioned, as well as anything that could help to identify them. The clerks at the barriers were ordered to search barrels, washerwomen's carts, baskets, and, as the cemeteries were outside the walls, to look carefully into all the hearses that carried the dead to them.
* * * * *
On leaving Chaillot, Georges had returned to Verdet, in the Rue du Puits-de-l'Hermite. As he did not go out and his friends dared not come to see him, Mme. Verdet had instituted herself commissioner for the conspiracy.
One evening she did not return. Armed with a letter for Bouvet de Lozier, she had arrived at the Rue Saint-Sauveur just as they were taking him to the Temple, and had been arrested with him. Thus the circle was narrowing around Georges. He was obliged to leave the Rue du Puits-de-l'Hermite in haste, for fear that torture would wring the secret of his asylum from Mme. Verdet. But where could he go? The house at Chaillot, the Hotel of the Cloche d'Or, the Rue Careme-Prenant were now known to the police. Charles d'Hozier, on being consulted, showed him a retreat that he had kept for himself, which had been arranged for him by Mlle. Hisay, a poor deformed girl, who served the conspirators with tireless zeal, taking all sorts of disguises and vying in address and activity with Real's men. She had rented from a fruitseller named Lemoine, a little shop with a room above it, intending "to use it for some of her acquaintances."
It was there that she conducted Georges on the night of February 17. The next day two of his officers, Burban and Joyaut, joined him there, and all three lived at the woman Lemoine's for twenty days. They occupied the room above, leaving the shop untenanted save by Mlle. Hisay and a little girl of Lemoine's, who kept watch there. At night both of them went up to the room, and slept there, separated by a curtain from the beds occupied by Georges and his accomplices. The fruiterer and her daughter were entirely ignorant of the standing of their guests, Mlle. Hisay having introduced them as three shop-keepers who were unfortunately obliged to hide from their creditors.
This incognito occasioned some rather amusing incidents. One day Mme. Lemoine, on returning from market where the neighbours had been discussing the plot that was agitating all Paris, said to her tenants, "Goodness me! You don't know about it? Why, they say that that miserable Georges would like to destroy us all; if I knew where he was, I'd soon have him caught."
Another time the little girl brought news that Georges had left Paris disguised as an aide-de-camp of the First Consul. Some days later, when Georges asked her what the latest news was, she answered, "They say the rascal has escaped in a coffin."
"I should like to go out the same way," hinted Burban.
However, the police had lost track of the conspirator. It was generally supposed that he had passed the fortifications, when on the 8th of March, Petit, who had known Leridant, one of the Chouans, for a long time, saw him talking with a woman on the Boulevard Saint-Antoine. He followed him, and a little further off, saw him go up to a man who struck him as bearing a great likeness to Joyaut, whose description had been posted on all the walls.
It was indeed Joyaut, who had left Mme. Lemoine's for the purpose of looking for a lodging for Georges where he would be less at the mercy of chance than in the fruitseller's attic. Leridant told him that the house of a perfumer named Caron, in the Rue Four-Saint-Germain, was the safest retreat in Paris. For some years Caron, a militant royalist, had sheltered distressed Chouans, in the face of the police. He had hidden Hyde de Neuville for several weeks; his house was well provided with secret places, and for extreme cases he had made a place in his sign-post overhanging the street, where a man could lie perdu at ease, while the house was being searched. Leridant had obtained Caron's consent, and it was agreed that Leridant should come in a cab at seven o'clock the next evening to take Georges from Sainte-Genevieve to the Rue du Four.
When he had seen the termination of the interview of which his detective's instinct showed him the importance, Petit, who had remained at a distance, followed Joyaut, and did not lose sight of him till he arrived at the Place Maubert. Suspecting that Georges was in the neighbourhood he posted policemen at the Place du Pantheon, and at the narrow streets leading to it; then he returned to watch Leridant, who lodged with a young man called Goujon, in the cul-de-sac of the Corderie, behind the old Jacobins Club. The next day, March 9th, Petit learned through his spies that Goujon had hired out a cab, No. 53, for the entire day. He hastened to the Prefecture and informed his colleague, Destavigny, who, with a party of inspectors took up his position on the Place Maubert. If, as Petit supposed, Georges was hidden near there, if the cab was intended for him, it would be obliged to cross the place where the principal streets of the quarter converged. The order was given to let it pass if it contained only one person, but to follow it with most extreme care.
The night had arrived, and nothing had happened to confirm the hypotheses of Petit, when, a little before seven o'clock, a cab appeared on the Place, coming from the Rue Galande. Only one man was on it, holding the reins. The spies in different costumes, who hung about the fountain, recognised him as Leridant. The cab was numbered 53, and had only the lantern at the left alight. It went slowly up the steep Rue de la Montagne-Sainte-Genevieve; the police, hugging the walls, followed it far off. Petit, the Inspector Caniolle, and the officer of the peace, Destavigny, kept nearer to it, expecting to see it stop before one of the houses in the street, when they would only have to take Georges on the threshold. But to their great disappointment the cab turned to the right, into the narrow Rue des Amandiers, and stopped at a porte cochere near the old College des Grassins. As the lantern shed a very brilliant light, the three detectives concealed themselves in the lanes near by. They saw Leridant descend from the cab. He went through a door, came out, went in again and stayed for a quarter of an hour. Then he turned his horse round, and got up on the seat again.
The cab turned again into the Rue de la Montagne-Sainte-Genevieve, and went slowly down it; it went across the Place Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, following the houses. Caniolle walked behind it, Petit and Destavigny followed at a distance. Just as the carriage arrived at the corner of the Rue des Sept-Voies, four individuals came out from the shadow. One of them seized the apron, and helping himself up by the step, flung himself into the cab, which had not stopped, and went off at full speed....
The police had recognised Georges, disguised as a market-porter. Caniolle, who was nearest, rushed forward; the three men who had remained on the spot, and who were no other than Joyaut, Burban and Raoul Gaillard, tried to stop him. Caniolle threw them off, and chased the cab which had disappeared in the Rue Saint-Etienne-des-Gres. He caught up to it, just as it was entering the Passage des Jacobins. Seizing the springs, he was carried along with it. The two officers of the peace, less agile, followed crying, "Stop! Stop!"
Georges, seated on the right of Leridant, who held the reins, had turned to the back of the carriage and tried to follow the fortunes of the pursuit through the glass. The moment that he had jumped into the carriage, he had seen the detectives, and said to Leridant: "Whip him, whip him hard!"
"To go where?" asked the other.
"I do not know, but we must fly!"
And the horse, tingling with blows, galloped off.
At the end of the Passage des Jacobins, which at a sharp angle ended in the Rue de la Harpe, Leridant was obliged to slow up in order to turn on the Place Saint-Michel, and not miss the entrance to the Rue des Fosses-Monsieur-le-Prince. He turned towards the Rue du Four, hoping, thanks to the steepness of the Rue des Fosses, to distance the detectives and arrive at Caron's before they caught up with the carriage.
From where he was Georges could not, through the little window, see Caniolle crouched behind the hood. But he saw others running with all their might. Destavigny and Petit had indeed continued the pursuit, and their cries brought out all the spies posted in the quarter. Just as Leridant wildly dashed into the Rue des Fosses, a whole pack of policemen rushed upon him.
At the approach of this whirlwind the frightened passers-by shrank into the shelter of the doorways. Their minds were so haunted by one idea that at the sight of this cab flying past in the dark with the noise of whips, shouts, oaths, and the resonant clang of the horse's hoofs on the pavement, a single cry broke forth, "Georges! Georges! it is Georges!" Anxious faces appeared at the windows, and from every door people came out, who began to run without knowing it, drawn along as by a waterspout. Did Georges see in this a last hope of safety? Did he believe he could escape in the crowd? However that may be, at the top of the Rue Voltaire he jumped out into the street. Caniolle, at the same moment, left the back of the cab—which Petit, and another policeman called Buffet, had at last succeeded in outrunning,—threw himself on the reins, and allowing himself to be dragged along, mastered the horse, which stopped, exhausted. Buffet took one step towards Georges, who stretched him dead with a pistol shot; with a second ball the Chouan rid himself, for a moment at least, of Caniolle. He still thought, probably, that he could hide himself in the crowd; and perhaps he would have succeeded, for Destavigny, who had run up, "saw him before him, standing with all the tranquillity of a man who has nothing to fear, and three or four people near him appeared not to be thinking more about Georges than anything else." He was going to turn the corner of the Rue de l'Observance when Caniolle, who was only wounded, struck him with his club. In an instant Georges was surrounded, thrown down, searched and bound. The next morning more than forty individuals, among them several women, made themselves known to the judge as being each "the principal author" of the arrest of the "brigand" chief.
By way of the Carrefour de la Comedie, the Rues des Fosses Saint-Germain and Dauphine, Georges, tied with cords, was taken to the Prefecture. A growing mob escorted him, more out of curiosity than anger, and one can imagine the excitement at police headquarters when they heard far off on the Quai des Orfevres, the increasing tumult announcing the event, and when suddenly, from the corps de garde in the salons of the Prefect Dubois the news came, "Georges is taken!"