Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Prefer the familiar word to the far-fetched.
Prefer the concrete word to the abstract.
Prefer the single word to the circumlocution.
Prefer the short word to the long.
Prefer the Saxon word to the Romance.


H.W. and F.G.Fowler

Sunday, January 27, 2008


The Meghaduta or Cloud Messenger is one of the masterpieces of Indian, indeed world literature. {1} Its 120-odd stanzas, each of four unrhymed lines, were written in the Mandakrata {2} metre at some time between 100 BC and 500 AD. {3} The Mandakrata is a long metre, moving slowly like the python, with a form as follows: {4} {5}

Kalakalah, the ferry in the sound, now lets great boats lie. Beneath
bold, broad, stone forts in which stiff Brits fix pride, lie little boats aground. Wet,

wild, welcome, warm they hint at bitter storms. Bold, bitten barricades fall.
Whose to say "fly," if nits pick petty fights and the work wanders widely?

Each line has 17 syllables and 10 stresses (or, more accurately, long syllables, as Sanskrit poetry is quantitative.) The stanza is richly elaborated and tightly knit {6}, so that each stands as a somewhat individual creation. When we realize that Indian poetry is often richly sensuous, moreover, with a leaning towards reflection and speculation unlike anything in Chinese, or indeed in English, {7} we begin to appreciate the difficulties. The story is also far from contemporary interests: a lovesick supernatural being (Yaksha) asks a cloud to convey a message across the subcontinent to his loved one. {8}

Other Translations
There have been many translations. {8} {9} {10} {11} {12} {13} {14}. Here are three Internet versions of the opening stanzas:

A lean and lovesick Yaksha, newly wed,
Dallied at home avoiding his work.
His elder, made angry, packed him into exile
For a year. Now his misery knows no bounds.
He lives in Ramgiri Parvat near a crystal lake,
Whose waters once touched by Sita, are holy.

Frustrated and forlorn, distant Chitrakut Mountain
His new home, Yaksha is lost and starved for love,
His wrist so thin it sheds its golden jewels.
Ashar has come, filling the southern sky with
A cloud, frolicksome as an elephant
About to charge, he seems to lower his tusks.

Seeing that beautiful cloud high on the mountaintop,
Filled with desire and tearful, Yaksha
Plunged into deep reflection. O Cloud!
Look at me -- how I pine to caress
The long neck of my beloved.
Should my feelings not be moved? {8}

Yue-tchi chief, neglectful of his fief,
Sentenced to suffer exile of one year,
(A heavy fate to part with his beloved,
And see his glories, joys and splendours set)
Came to dwell and wait in abbeys far
Amidst the ancient trees' sequestered shade,
Above the Rama-hills by springs wherein
The daughter of the Prince of Mithila
Once bathed and hallowed them for evermore.

And on these heights he whiled away some months,
An ardent lover torn from hapless wife,
His golden armlets from his wasting wrists
Slipt loose: Then with the first advent of rains,
Below him, clinging to the mountain side,
He spied a cloud, an elephant as 'twere,
With lowered tusks, against a rampart bent in sportive butt.

I know thou comest of the far-famed race
Of rolling, heavy clouds, -- and changing garbs
At will, thou leadest troops that serve the God
Of Rains, the Bountiful. And I by stroke
Of fate and law from dear ones cast afar,
Would seek of thee a favour.

Refuge thou art for all that suffer wrong,
Distressed and parched, on them thou pourest balm.
Then take this message to my love, for we
Are torn apart by angry Lord of Wealth. {12}

A certain yaksha who had been negligent in the execution of his own duties, on account of a curse from his master which was to be endured for a year and which was onerous as it separated him from his beloved, made his residence among the hermitages of Ramagiri, whose waters were blessed by the bathing of the daughter of Janaka and whose shade trees grew in profusion.

That lover, separated from his beloved, whose gold armlet had slipped from his bare forearm, having dwelt on that mountain for some months, on the first day of Asadha, saw a cloud embracing the summit, which resembled a mature elephant playfully butting a bank.

Managing with difficulty to stand up in front of that cloud which was the cause of the renewal of his enthusiasm, that attendant of the king of kings, pondered while holding back his tears. Even the mind of a happy person is excited at the sight of a cloud. How much more so, when the one who longs to cling to his neck is far away? {11}

And from printed sources:

This Yaksha, banished a desolate year
from his love and from the king whose curse
for some carelessness sent him impotent away,
spent his exile among the holy retreats
of Ramagiri where Sita, bathing, had made
the waters holy and where trees cast a rich shade.

On this mountain, months from his mate,
aching for love, his wrists so wasted
that the gold bracelet he wore slipped off
and was lost — he saw at summer's end
a cloud swelling against the peak
like a great elephant nuzzling a hill.

So he stood there, shaken, this courtier
of Kubera, his tears held back, considering
the heart-breaking sight a long time.
A sudden cloud can mute the mind
of the happiest man — how much more
when the one he is dying to hold is far from him. {13}

A certain nameless Yaksa, divested of his powers by his King and condemned for his dereliction to yearlong exile away from his family, lived in a cottage on Ramagiri hills, where the trees had a gentle shade and where the brooks had become holy from Sita's baths.

A few months of separation from his wife sapped his vigour and the bracelets slipped from his thinned wrists. Then, on the last day of Asadha, he noticed a cloud clinging to the mountain-peak, a visual pleasure, like an elephant playing and butting the peak.

The humble servant of the Sovereign Kubera stood somehow before it, tears welling up inside and lost for long in hesitant thought. Even a happy heart is perturbed at the sight of a cloud in the rainy season; what will be the state of those far off from lovers' embrace? {14}

A demigod who was heedless in his office
had lost his honored rank--
his master cursed him to endure
a year in exile from his love.
He lived on Mt. Rama
in the hermit groves
whose waters were pure from Sita's ablutions. {15}

Kalidas(translated from Sanskrit)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Madame de Fleury

Madame de Fleury


"There oft are heard the notes of infant woe,
The short thick sob, loud scream, and shriller squall--
How can you, mothers, vex your infants so?"--POPE

"D'abord, madame, c'est impossible!--Madame ne descendra pas ici?" said
Francois, the footman of Madame de Fleury, with a half expostulatory,
half indignant look, as he let down the step of her carriage at the
entrance of a dirty passage, that led to one of the most
miserable-looking houses in Paris.

"But what can be the cause of the cries which I hear in this house?" said
Madame de Fleury.

"'Tis only some child who is crying," replied Francois; and he would have
put up the step, but his lady was not satisfied.

"'Tis nothing in the world," continued he, with a look of appeal to the
coachman, "it _can_ be nothing, but some children who are locked up there
above. The mother, the workwoman my lady wants, is not at home: that's

"I must know the cause of these cries; I must see these children" said
Madame de Fleury, getting out of her carriage.

Francois held his arm for his lady as she got out.

"Bon!" cried he, with an air of vexation. "Si madame la vent absolument,
a la bonne heure!--Mais madame sera abimee. Madame verra que j'ai
raison. Madame ne montera jamais ce vilain escalier. D'ailleurs c'est
au cinquieme. Mais, madame, c'est impossible."

Notwithstanding the impossibility, Madame de Fleury proceeded; and
bidding her talkative footman wait in the entry, made her way up the
dark, dirty, broken staircase, the sound of the cries increasing every
instant, till, as she reached the fifth storey, she heard the shrieks of
one in violent pain. She hastened to the door of the room from which the
cries proceeded; the door was fastened, and the noise was so great that,
though she knocked as loud as she was able, she could not immediately
make herself heard. At last the voice of a child from within answered,
"The door is locked--mamma has the key in her pocket, and won't be home
till night; and here's Victoire has tumbled from the top of the big
press, and it is she that is shrieking so."

Madame de Fleury ran down the stairs which she had ascended with so much
difficulty, called to her footman, who was waiting in the entry,
despatched him for a surgeon, and then she returned to obtain from some
people who lodged in the house assistance to force open the door of the
room in which the children were confined.

On the next floor there was a smith at work, filing so earnestly that he
did not hear the screams of the children. When his door was pushed open,
and the bright vision of Madame de Fleury appeared to him, his
astonishment was so great that he seemed incapable of comprehending what
she said. In a strong provincial accent he repeated, "_Plait-il_?" and
stood aghast till she had explained herself three times; then suddenly
exclaiming, "Ah! c'est ca;"--he collected his tools precipitately, and
followed to obey her orders. The door of the room was at last forced
half open, for a press that had been overturned prevented its opening
entirely. The horrible smells that issued did not overcome Madame de
Fleury's humanity: she squeezed her way into the room, and behind the
fallen press saw three little children: the youngest, almost an infant,
ceased roaring, and ran to a corner; the eldest, a boy of about eight
years old, whose face and clothes were covered with blood, held on his
knee a girl younger than himself, whom he was trying to pacify, but who
struggled most violently and screamed incessantly, regardless of Madame
de Fleury, to whose questions she made no answer.

"Where are you hurt, my dear?" repeated Madame de Fleury in a soothing
voice. "Only tell me where you feel pain?"

The boy, showing his sister's arm, said, in a surly tone--"It is this
that is hurt--but it was not I did it."

"It was, it _was_!" cried the girl as loud as she could vociferate: "it
was Maurice threw me down from the top of the press."

"No--it was you that were pushing me, Victoire, and you fell
backwards.--Have done screeching, and show your arm to the lady."

"I can't," said the girl.

"She won't," said the boy.

"She cannot," said Madame de Fleury, kneeling down to examine it. "She
cannot move it; I am afraid that it is broken."

"Don't touch it! don't touch it!" cried the girl, screaming more

"Ma'am, she screams that way for nothing often," said the boy. "Her arm
is no more broke than mine, I'm sure; she'll move it well enough when
she's not cross."

"I am afraid," said Madame de Fleury, "that her arm is broken."

"Is it indeed?" said the boy, with a look of terror.

"Oh! don't touch it--you'll kill me; you are killing me," screamed the
poor girl, whilst Madame de Fleury with the greatest care endeavoured to
join the bones in their proper place, and resolved to hold the arm till
the arrival of the surgeon.

From the feminine appearance of this lady, no stranger would have
expected such resolution; but with all the natural sensibility and
graceful delicacy of her sex, she had none of that weakness or affection
which incapacitates from being useful in real distress. In most sudden
accidents, and in all domestic misfortunes, female resolution and
presence of mind are indispensably requisite: safety, health, and life
often depend upon the fortitude of women. Happy they who, like Madame de
Fleury, possess strength of mind united with the utmost gentleness of
manner and tenderness of disposition!

Soothed by this lady's sweet voice, the child's rage subsided; and no
longer struggling, the poor little girl sat quietly on her lap, sometimes
writhing and moaning with pain.

The surgeon at length arrived: her arm was set: and he said "that she had
probably been saved much future pain by Madame de Fleury's presence of

"Sir,--will it soon be well?" said Maurice to the surgeon.

"Oh yes, very soon, I dare say," said the little girl. "To-morrow,
perhaps; for now that it is tied up it does not hurt me to signify--and
after all, I do believe, Maurice, it was not you threw me down."

As she spoke, she held up her face to kiss her brother.--"That is right,"
said Madame de Fleury; "there is a good sister."

The little girl put out her lips, offering a second kiss, but the boy
turned hastily away to rub the tears from his eyes with the back of his

"I am not cross now: am I, Maurice?"

"No, Victoire; I was cross myself when I said _that_."

As Victoire was going to speak again, the surgeon imposed silence,
observing that she must be put to bed, and should be kept quiet. Madame
de Fleury laid her upon the bed, as soon as Maurice had cleared it of the
things with which it was covered; and as they were spreading the ragged
blanket over the little girl, she whispered a request to Madame de Fleury
that she would "stay till her mamma came home, to beg Maurice off from
being whipped, if mamma should be angry."

Touched by this instance of goodness, and compassionating the desolate
condition of these children, Madame de Fleury complied with Victoire's
request; resolving to remonstrate with their mother for leaving them
locked up in this manner. They did not know to what part of the town
their mother was gone; they could tell only "that she was to go to a
great many different places to carry back work, and to bring home more,
and that she expected to be in by five." It was now half after four.

Whilst Madame de Fleury waited, she asked the boy to give her a full
account of the manner in which the accident had happened.

"Why, ma'am," said Maurice, twisting and untwisting a ragged handkerchief
as he spoke, "the first beginning of all the mischief was, we had nothing
to do, so we went to the ashes to make dirt pies; but Babet would go so
close that she burnt her petticoat, and threw about all our ashes, and
plagued us, and we whipped her. But all would not do, she would not be
quiet; so to get out of her reach, we climbed up by this chair on the
table to the top of the press, and there we were well enough for a little
while, till somehow we began to quarrel about the old scissors, and we
struggled hard for them till I got this cut."

Here he unwound the handkerchief, and for the first time showed the
wound, which he had never mentioned before.

"Then," continued he, "when I got the cut, I shoved Victoire, and she
pushed at me again, and I was keeping her off, and her foot slipped, and
down she fell, and caught by the press-door, and pulled it and me after
her, and that's all I know."

"It is well that you were not both killed," said Madame de Fleury. "Are
you often left locked up in this manner by yourselves, and without
anything to do?"

"Yes, always, when mamma is abroad, except sometimes we are let out upon
the stairs or in the street; but mamma says we get into mischief there."

This dialogue was interrupted by the return of the mother. She came
upstairs slowly, much fatigued, and with a heavy bundle under her arm.

"How now! Maurice, how comes my door open? What's all this?" cried she,
in an angry voice; but seeing a lady sitting upon her child's bed, she
stopped short in great astonishment. Madame de Fleury related what had
happened, and averted her anger from Maurice by gently expostulating upon
the hardship and hazard of leaving her young children in this manner
during so many hours of the day.

"Why, my lady," replied the poor woman, wiping her forehead, "every hard-
working woman in Paris does the same with her children; and what can I do
else? I must earn bread for these helpless ones, and to do that I must
be out backwards and forwards, and to the furthest parts of the town,
often from morning till night, with those that employ me; and I cannot
afford to send the children to school, or to keep any kind of a servant
to look after them; and when I'm away, if I let them run about these
stairs and entries, or go into the sheets, they do get a little exercise
and air, to be sure, such as it is on which account I do let them out
sometimes; but then a deal of mischief comes of that, too: they learn all
kinds of wickedness, and would grow up to be no better than pickpockets,
if they were let often to consort with the little vagabonds they find in
the streets. So what to do better for them I don't know."

The poor mother sat down upon the fallen press, looked at Victoire, and
wept bitterly. Madame de Fleury was struck with compassion; but she did
not satisfy her feelings merely by words or comfort or by the easy
donation of some money--she resolved to do something more, and something


"Come often, then; for haply in my bower
Amusement, knowledge, wisdom, thou may'st gain:
If I one soul improve, I have not lived in vain."--BEATTIE.

It is not so easy to do good as those who have never attempted it may
imagine; and they who without consideration follow the mere instinct of
pity, often by their imprudent generosity create evils more pernicious to
society than any which they partially remedy. "Warm Charity, the general
friend," may become the general enemy, unless she consults her head as
well as her heart. Whilst she pleases herself with the idea that she
daily feeds hundreds of the poor, she is perhaps preparing want and
famine for thousands. Whilst she delights herself with the anticipation
of gratitude for her bounties, she is often exciting only unreasonable
expectations, inducing habits of dependence and submission to slavery.

Those who wish to do good should attend to experience, from whom they may
receive lessons upon the largest scale that time and numbers can afford.

Madame de Fleury was aware that neither a benevolent disposition nor a
large fortune were sufficient to enable her to be of real service,
without the constant exercise of her judgment. She had, therefore,
listened with deference to the conversation of well-informed men upon
those subjects on which ladies have not always the means or the wish to
acquire extensive and accurate knowledge. Though a Parisian belle, she
had read with attention some of those books which are generally thought
too dry or too deep for her sex. Consequently, her benevolence was
neither wild in theory nor precipitate nor ostentatious in practice.

Touched with compassion for a little girl whose arm had been accidentally
broken, and shocked by the discovery of the confinement and the dangers
to which numbers of children in Paris were doomed, she did not make a
parade of her sensibility. She did not talk of her feelings in fine
sentences to a circle of opulent admirers, nor did she project for the
relief of the little sufferers some magnificent establishment which she
could not execute or superintend. She was contented with attempting only
what she had reasonable hopes of accomplishing.

The gift of education she believed to be more advantageous than the gift
of money to the poor, as it ensures the means both of future subsistence
and happiness. But the application even of this incontrovertible
principle requires caution and judgment. To crowd numbers of children
into a place called a school, to abandon them to the management of any
person called a schoolmaster or a schoolmistress, is not sufficient to
secure the blessings of a good education. Madame de Fleury was sensible
that the greatest care is necessary in the choice of the person to whom
young children are to be entrusted; she knew that only a certain number
can be properly directed by one superintendent, and that, by attempting
to do too much, she might do nothing, or worse than nothing. Her school
was formed, therefore, on a small scale, which she could enlarge to any
extent, if it should be found to succeed. From some of the families of
poor people, who, in earning their bread, are obliged to spend most of
the day from home, she selected twelve little girls, of whom Victoire was
the eldest, and she was between six and seven.

The person under whose care Madame de Fleury wished to place these
children was a nun of the _Soeurs de la Charite_, with whose simplicity
of character, benevolence, and mild, steady temper she was thoroughly
acquainted. Sister Frances was delighted with the plan. Any scheme that
promised to be of service to her follow-creatures was sure of meeting
with her approbation; but this suited her taste peculiarly, because she
was extremely fond of children. No young person had ever boarded six
months at her convent without becoming attached to good Sister Frances.

The period of which we are writing was some years before convents were
abolished; but the strictness of their rules had in many instances been
considerably relaxed. Without much difficulty, permission was obtained
from the abbess for our nun to devote her time during the day to the care
of these poor children, upon condition that she should regularly return
to her convent every night before evening prayers. The house which
Madame de Fleury chose for her little school was in an airy part of the
town; it did not face the street, but was separated from other buildings
at the back of a court, retired from noise and bustle. The two rooms
intended for the occupation of the children were neat and clean, but
perfectly simple, with whitewashed walls, furnished only with wooden
stools and benches, and plain deal tables. The kitchen was well lighted
(for light is essential to cleanliness), and it was provided with
utensils; and for these appropriate places were allotted, to give the
habit and the taste of order. The schoolroom opened into a garden larger
than is usually seen in towns. The nun, who had been accustomed to
purchase provisions for her convent, undertook to prepare daily for the
children breakfast and dinner; they were to sup and sleep at their
respective homes. Their parents were to take them to Sister Frances
every morning when they went out to work, and to call for them upon their
return home every evening. By this arrangement, the natural ties of
affection and intimacy between the children and their parents would not
be loosened; they would be separate only at the time when their absence
must be inevitable. Madame de Fleury thought that any education which
estranges children entirely from their parents must be fundamentally
erroneous; that such a separation must tend to destroy that sense of
filial affection and duty, and those principles of domestic
subordination, on which so many of the interests and much of the virtue
and happiness of society depend. The parents of these poor children were
eager to trust them to her care, and they strenuously endeavoured to
promote what they perceived to be entirely to their advantage. They
promised to take their daughters to school punctually every morning--a
promise which was likely to be kept, as a good breakfast was to be ready
at a certain hour, and not to wait for anybody. The parents looked
forward with pleasure, also, to the idea of calling for their little
girls at the end of their day's labour, and of taking them home to their
family supper. During the intermediate hours the children were
constantly to be employed, or in exercise. It was difficult to provide
suitable employments for their early age; but even the youngest of those
admitted could be taught to wind balls of cotton, thread, and silk for
haberdashers; or they could shell peas and beans, &c., for a neighbouring
_traiteur_; or they could weed in a garden. The next in age could learn
knitting and plain work, reading, writing, and arithmetic. As the girls
should grow up, they were to be made useful in the care of the house.
Sister Frances said she could teach them to wash and iron, and that she
would make them as skilful in cookery as she was herself. This last was
doubtless a rash promise; for in most of the mysteries of the culinary
art, especially in the medical branches of it, in making savoury messes
palatable to the sick, few could hope to equal the neat-handed Sister
Frances. She had a variety of other accomplishments; but her humility
and good sense forbade her upon the present occasion to mention these.
She said nothing of embroidery, or of painting, or of cutting out paper,
or of carving in ivory, though in all these she excelled: her cuttings-
out in paper were exquisite as the finest lace; her embroidered
housewives, and her painted boxes, and her fan-mounts, and her curiously-
wrought ivory toys, had obtained for her the highest reputation in the
convent amongst the best judges in the world. Those only who have
philosophically studied and thoroughly understand the nature of fame and
vanity can justly appreciate the self-denial or magnanimity of Sister
Frances, in forbearing to enumerate or boast of these things. She
alluded to them but once, and in the slightest and most humble manner.

"These little creatures are too young for us to think of teaching them
anything but plain work at present; but if hereafter any of them should
show a superior genius we can cultivate it properly. Heaven has been
pleased to endow me with the means--at least, our convent says so."

The actions of Sister Frances showed as much moderation as her words; for
though she was strongly tempted to adorn her new dwelling with those
specimens of her skill which had long been the glory of her apartment in
the convent, yet she resisted the impulse, and contented herself with
hanging over the chimney-piece of her schoolroom a Madonna of her own

The day arrived when she was to receive her pupils in their new
habitation. When the children entered the room for the first time, they
paid the Madonna the homage of their unfeigned admiration. Involuntarily
the little crowd stopped short at the sight of the picture. Some dormant
emotions of human vanity were now awakened--played for a moment about the
heart of Sister Frances--and may be forgiven. Her vanity was innocent
and transient, her benevolence permanent and useful. Repressing the vain-
glory of an artist, as she fixed her eyes upon the Madonna, her thoughts
rose to higher objects, and she seized this happy moment to impress upon
the minds of her young pupils their first religious ideas and feelings.
There was such unaffected piety in her manner, such goodness in her
countenance, such persuasion in her voice, and simplicity in her words,
that the impression she made was at once serious, pleasing, and not to be
effaced. Much depends upon the moment and the manner in which the first
notions of religion are communicated to children; if these ideas be
connected with terror, and produced when the mind is sullen or in a state
of dejection, the future religious feelings are sometimes of a gloomy,
dispiriting sort; but if the first impression be made when the heart is
expanded by hope or touched by affection, these emotions are happily and
permanently associated with religion. This should be particularly
attended to by those who undertake the instruction of the children of the
poor, who must lead a life of labour, and can seldom have leisure or
inclination, when arrived at years of discretion, to re-examine the
principles early infused into their minds. They cannot in their riper
age conquer by reason those superstitions terrors, or bigoted prejudices,
which render their victims miserable, or perhaps criminal. To attempt to
rectify any errors in the foundation after an edifice has been
constructed is dangerous: the foundation, therefore, should be laid with
care. The religious opinions of Sister Frances were strictly united with
just rules of morality, strongly enforcing, as the essential means of
obtaining present and future happiness, the practice of the social
virtues, so that no good or wise persons, however they might differ from
her in modes of faith, could doubt the beneficial influence of her
general principles, or disapprove of the manner in which they were

Detached from every other worldly interest, this benevolent nun devoted
all her earthly thoughts to the children of whom she had undertaken the
charge. She watched over them with unceasing vigilance, whilst
diffidence of her own abilities was happily supported by her high opinion
of Madame de Fleury's judgment. This lady constantly visited her pupils
every week; not in the hasty, negligent manner in which fine ladies
sometimes visit charitable institutions, imagining that the honour of
their presence is to work miracles, and that everything will go on
rightly when they have said, "_Let it be so_," or, "_I must have it so_."
Madame de Fleury's visits were not of this dictatorial or cursory nature.
Not minutes, but hours, she devoted to these children--she who could
charm by the grace of her manners, and delight by the elegance of her
conversation, the most polished circles and the best-informed societies
of Paris, preferred to the glory of being admired the pleasure of being

"Her life, as lovely as her face,
Each duty mark'd with every grace;
Her native sense improved by reading,
Her native sweetness by good breeding."


"Ah me! how much I fear lest pride it be;
But if that pride it be which thus inspires,
Beware, ye dames! with nice discernment see
Ye quench not too the sparks of nobler fires."


By repeated observation, and by attending to the minute reports of Sister
Frances, Madame de Fleury soon became acquainted with the habits and
temper of each individual in this little society. The most intelligent
and the most amiable of these children was Victoire. Whence her
superiority arose, whether her abilities were naturally more vivacious
than those of her companions, or whether they had been more early
developed by accidental excitation, we cannot pretend to determine, lest
we should involve ourselves in the intricate question respecting natural
genius--a metaphysical point, which we shall not in this place stop to
discuss. Till the world has an accurate philosophical dictionary (a work
not to be expected in less than half a dozen centuries), this question
will never be decided to general satisfaction. In the meantime we may
proceed with our story.

Deep was the impression made on Victoire's heart by the kindness that
Madame de Fleury showed her at the time her arm was broken; and her
gratitude was expressed with all the enthusiastic fondness of childhood.
Whenever she spoke or heard of Madame de Fleury her countenance became
interested and animated in a degree that would have astonished a cool
English spectator. Every morning her first question to Sister Frances
was: "Will _she_ come to-day?" If Madame de Fleury was expected, the
hours and the minutes were counted, and the sand in the hour-glass that
stood on the schoolroom table was frequently shaken. The moment she
appeared Victoire ran to her, and was silent; satisfied with standing
close beside her, holding her gown when unperceived, and watching, as she
spoke and moved, every turn of her countenance. Delighted by these marks
of sensibility, Sister Frances would have praised the child, but was
warned by Madame de Fleury to refrain from injudicious eulogiums, lest
she should teach her affectation.

"If I must not praise, you will permit me at least to love her," said
Sister Frances.

Her affection for Victoire was increased by compassion: during two months
the poor child's arm hung in a sling, so that she could not venture to
play with her companions. At their hours of recreation she used to sit
on the schoolroom steps, looking down into the garden at the scene of
merriment in which she could not partake.

For those who know how to find it, there is good in everything. Sister
Frances used to take her seat on the steps, sometimes with her work and
sometimes with a book; and Victoire, tired of being quite idle, listened
with eagerness to the stories which Sister Frances read, or watched with
interest the progress of her work; soon she longed to imitate what she
saw done with so much pleasure, and begged to be taught to work and read.
By degrees she learned her alphabet, and could soon, to the amazement of
her schoolfellows, read the names of all the animals in Sister Frances'
picture-book. No matter how trifling the thing done, or the knowledge
acquired, a great point is gained by giving the desire for employment.
Children frequently become industrious from impatience of the pains and
penalties of idleness. Count Rumford showed that he understood childish
nature perfectly well when, in his House of Industry at Munich, he
compelled the young children to sit for some time idle in a gallery round
the hall, where others a little older than themselves were busied at
work. During Victoire's state of idle convalescence she acquired the
desire to be employed, and she consequently soon became more industrious
than her neighbours. Succeeding in her first efforts, she was
praised--was pleased, and persevered till she became an example of
activity to her companions. But Victoire, though now nearly seven years
old, was not quite perfect. Naturally, or accidentally, she was very
passionate, and not a little self-willed.

One day being mounted, horsemanlike, with whip in hand, upon the banister
of the flight of stairs leading from the schoolroom to the garden, she
called in a tone of triumph to her playfellows, desiring them to stand
out of the way, and see her slide from top to bottom. At this moment
Sister Frances came to the schoolroom door and forbade the feat; but
Victoire, regardless of all prohibition, slid down instantly, and
moreover was going to repeat the glorious operation, when Sister Frances,
catching hold of her arm, pointed to a heap of sharp stones that lay on
the ground upon the other side of the banisters.

"I am not afraid," said Victoire.

"But if you fall there, you may break your arm again."

"And if I do, I can bear it," said Victoire. "Let me go, pray let me go:
I must do it."

"No; I forbid you, Victoire, to slide down again. Babet and all the
little ones would follow your example, and perhaps break their necks."

The nun, as she spoke, attempted to compel Victoire to dismount; but she
was so much of a heroine, that she would do nothing upon compulsion.
Clinging fast to the banisters, she resisted with all her might; she
kicked and screamed, and screamed and kicked, but at last her feet were
taken prisoners; then grasping the railway with one hand, with the other
she brandished high the little whip.

"What!" said the mild nun, "would you strike me with that _arm_?"

The arm dropped instantly--Victoire recollected Madame de Fleury's
kindness the day when the arm was broken; dismounting immediately, she
threw herself upon her knees in the midst of the crowd of young
spectators, and begged pardon of Sister Frances. For the rest of the day
she was as gentle as a lamb; nay, some assert that the effects of her
contrition were visible during the remainder of the week.

Having thus found the secret of reducing the little rebel to obedience by
touching her on the tender point of gratitude, the nun had recourse to
this expedient in all perilous cases; but one day, when she was boasting
of the infallible operation of her charm, Madame de Fleury advised her to
forbear recurring to it frequently, lest she should wear out the
sensibility she so much loved. In consequence of this counsel,
Victoire's violence of temper was sometimes reduced by force and
sometimes corrected by reason; but the principle and the feeling of
gratitude were not exhausted or weakened in the struggle. The hope of
reward operated upon her generous mind more powerfully than the fear of
punishment; and Madame de Fleury devised rewards with as much ability as
some legislators invent punishments.

Victoire's brother Maurice, who was now of an age to earn his own bread,
had a strong desire to be bound apprentice to the smith who worked in the
house where his mother lodged. This most ardent wish of his soul he had
imparted to his sister; and she consulted her benefactress, whom she
considered as all-powerful in this, as in every other affair.

"Your brother's wish shall be gratified," replied Madame de Fleury, "if
you can keep your temper one month. If you are never in a passion for a
whole month, I will undertake that your brother shall be bound apprentice
to his friend the smith. To your companions, to Sister Frances, and
above all to yourself, I trust, to make me a just report this day month."


"You she preferred to all the gay resorts,
Where female vanity might wish to shine,
The pomp of cities, and the pride of courts."


At the end of the time prescribed, the judges, including Victoire
herself, who was the most severe of them all, agreed she had justly
deserved her reward. Maurice obtained his wish; and Victoire's temper
never relapsed into its former bad habits--so powerful is the effect of a
well-chosen motive! Perhaps the historian may be blamed for dwelling on
such trivial anecdotes; yet a lady, who was accustomed to the
conversation of deep philosophers and polished courtiers, listened
without disdain to these simple annals. Nothing appeared to her a trifle
that could tend to form the habits of temper, truth, honesty, order, and
industry: habits which are to be early induced, not by solemn precepts,
but by practical lessons. A few more examples of these shall be
recorded, notwithstanding the fear of being tiresome.

One day little Babet, who was now five years old, saw, as she was coming
to school, an old woman sitting at a corner of the street beside a large
black brazier full of roasted chestnuts. Babet thought that the
chestnuts looked and smelled very good; the old woman was talking
earnestly to some people, who were on her other side; Babet filled her
work-bag with chestnuts, and then ran after her mother and sister, who,
having turned the corner of the street, had not seen what passed. When
Babet came to the schoolroom, she opened her bag with triumph, displayed
her treasure, and offered to divide it with her companions. "Here,
Victoire," said she, "here is the largest chestnut for you."

But Victoire would not take it; for she staid that Babet had no money,
and that she could not have come honestly by these chestnuts. She spoke
so forcibly upon this point that even those who had the tempting morsel
actually at their lips forbore to bite; those who had bitten laid down
their half-eaten prize; and those who had their hands full of chestnuts
rolled them back again towards the bag. Babet cried with vexation.

"I burned my fingers in getting them for you, and now you won't eat
them!--And I must not eat them!" said she: then curbing her passion, she
added, "But at any rate, I won't be a thief. I am sure I did not think
it was being a thief just to take a few chestnuts from an old woman who
had such heaps and heaps; but Victoire says it is wrong, and I would not
be a thief for all the chestnuts in the world--I'll throw them all into
the fire this minute!"

"No; give them back again to the old woman," said Victoire.

"But, may be, she would scold me for having taken them," said Babet; "or
who knows but she might whip me?"

"And if she did, could you not bear it?" said Victoire. "I am sure I
would rather bear twenty whippings than be a thief."

"Twenty, whippings! that's a great many," said Babet; "and I am so
little, consider--and that woman has such a monstrous arm!--Now, if it
was Sister Frances, it would be another thing. But come! if you will go
with me, Victoire, you shall see how I will behave."

"We will all go with you," said Victoire.

"Yes, all!" said the children; "And Sister Frances, I dare say, would go,
if you asked her."

Babet ran and told her, and she readily consented to accompany the little
penitent to make restitution. The chestnut woman did not whip Babet, nor
even scold her, but said she was sure that since the child was so honest
as to return what she had taken, she would never steal again. This was
the most glorious day of Babet's life, and the happiest. When the
circumstance was told to Madame de Fleury, she gave the little girl a bag
of the best chestnuts the old women could select, and Babet with great
delight shared her reward with her companions.

"But, alas! these chestnuts are not roasted. Oh, if we could but roast
them!" said the children.

Sister Frances placed in the middle of the table on which the chestnuts
were spread a small earthenware furnace--a delightful toy, commonly used
by children in Paris to cook their little feasts.

"This can be bought for sixpence," said she: "and if each of you twelve
earn one halfpenny apiece to-day, you can purchase it to-night, and I
will put a little fire into it, and you will then be able to roast your

The children ran eagerly to their work--some to wind worsted for a woman
who paid them a _liard_ for each ball, others to shell peas for a
neighbouring _traiteur_--all rejoicing that they were able to earn
something. The older girls, under the directions and with the assistance
of Sister Frances, completed making, washing, and ironing, half a dozen
little caps, to supply a baby-linen warehouse. At the end of the day,
when the sum of the produce of their labours was added together, they
were surprised to find that, instead of one, they could purchase two
furnaces. They received and enjoyed the reward of their united industry.
The success of their first efforts was fixed in their memory: for they
were very happy roasting the chestnuts, and they were all (Sister Frances
inclusive) unanimous in opinion that no chestnuts ever were so good, or
so well roasted. Sister Frances always partook in their little innocent
amusements; and it was her great delight to be the dispenser of rewards
which at once conferred present pleasure and cherished future virtue.


"To virtue wake the pulses of the heart,
And bid the tear of emulation start."


Victoire, who gave constant exercise to the benevolent feelings of the
amiable nun, became every day more dear to her. Far from having the
selfishness of a favourite, Victoire loved to bring into public notice
the good actions of her companions. "Stoop down your ear to me, Sister
Frances," said she, "and I will tell you a secret--I will tell you why my
friend Annette is growing so thin--I found it out this morning--she does
not eat above half her soup every day. Look, there's her porringer
covered up in the corner--she carries it home to her mother, who is sick,
and who has not bread to eat."

Madame de Fleury came in whilst Sister Frances was yet bending down to
hear this secret; it was repeated to her, and she immediately ordered
that a certain allowance of bread should be given to Annette every day to
carry to her mother during her illness.

"I give it in charge to you, Victoire, to remember this, and I am sure it
will never be forgotten. Here is an order for you upon my baker: run and
show it to Annette. This is a pleasure you deserve; I am glad that you
have chosen for your friend a girl who is so good a daughter. Good
daughters make good friends."

By similar instances of goodness Victoire obtained the love and
confidence of her companions, notwithstanding her manifest superiority.
In their turn, they were eager to proclaim her merits; and, as Sister
Frances and Madame de Fleury administered justice with invariable
impartiality, the hateful passions of envy and jealousy were never
excited in this little society. No servile sycophant, no malicious
detractor, could rob or defraud their little virtues of their due reward.

"Whom shall I trust to take this to Madame de Fleury?" said Sister
Frances, carrying into the garden where the children were playing a pot
of fine jonquils, which she had brought from her convent.--"These are the
first jonquils I have seen this year, and finer I never beheld! Whom
shall I trust to take them to Madame de Fleury this evening?--It must be
some one who will not stop to stare about on the way, but who will be
very, very careful--some one in whom I can place perfect dependence."

"It must be Victoire, then," cried every voice.

"Yes, she deserves it to-day particularly," said Annette eagerly;
"because she was not angry with Babet when she did what was enough to put
anybody in a passion. Sister Frances, you know this cherry-tree which
you grafted for Victoire last year, and that was yesterday so full of
blossoms--now you see, there is not a blossom left!--Babet plucked them
all this morning to make a nosegay."

"But she did not know," said Victoire, "that pulling off the blossoms
would prevent my having any cherries."

"Oh, I am very sorry I was so foolish," said Babet; "Victoire did not
even say a cross word to me."

"Though she was excessively anxious about the cherries," pursued Annette,
"because she intended to have given the first she had to Madame de

"Victoire, take the jonquils--it is but just," said Sister Frances. "How
I do love to hear them all praise her!--I knew what she would be from the

With a joyful heart Victoire took the jonquils, promised to carry them
with the utmost care, and not to stop to stare on the way. She set out
to Madame de Fleury's hotel, which was in _La Place de Louis Quinze_. It
was late in the evening, the lamps were lighting, and as Victoire crossed
the Pont de Louis Seize, she stopped to look at the reflection of the
lamps in the water, which appeared in succession, as they were lighted,
spreading as if by magic along the river. While Victoire leaned over the
battlements of the bridge, watching the rising of these stars of fire, a
sudden push from the elbow of some rude passenger precipitated her pot of
jonquils into the Seine. The sound it made in the water was thunder to
the ear of Victoire; she stood for an instant vainly hoping it would rise
again, but the waters had closed over it for ever.

"Dans cet etat affreux, que faire?
. . . Mon devoir."

Victoire courageously proceeded to Madame de Fleury's, and desired to see

"D'abord c'est impossible--madame is dressing to go to a concert," said
Francois. "Cannot you leave your message?"

"Oh no," said Victoire; "it is of great consequence--I must see her
myself; and she is so good, and you too, Monsieur Francois, that I am
sure you will not refuse."

"Well, I remember one day you found the seal of my watch, which I dropped
at your schoolroom door--one good turn deserves another. If it is
possible it shall be done--I will inquire of madame's woman."--"Follow me
upstairs," said he, returning in a few minutes; "madame will see you."

She followed him up the large staircase, and through a suite of
apartments sufficiently grand to intimidate her young imagination.

"Madame est dans son cabinet. Entrez--mais entrez donc, entrez

Madame de Fleury was more richly dressed than usual; and her image was
reflected in the large looking-glass, so that at the first moment
Victoire thought she saw many fine ladies, but not one of them the lady
she wanted.

"Well, Victoire, my child, what is the matter?"

"Oh, it is her voice!--I know you now, madame, and I am not afraid--not
afraid even to tell you how foolish I have been. Sister Frances trusted
me to carry for you, madame, a beautiful pot of jonquils, and she desired
me not to stop on the way to stare; but I did stop to look at the lamps
on the bridge, and I forgot the jonquils, and somebody brushed by me and
threw them into the river--and I am very sorry I was so foolish."

"And I am very glad that you are so wise as to tell the truth, without
attempting to make any paltry excuses. Go home to Sister Frances, and
assure her that I am more obliged to her for making you such an honest
girl than I could be for a whole bed of jonquils."

Victoire's heart was so full that she could not speak--she kissed Madame
de Fleury's hand in silence, and then seemed to be lost in contemplation
of her bracelet.

"Are you thinking, Victoire, that you should be much happier if you had
such bracelets as these? Believe me, you are mistaken if you think so;
many people are unhappy who wear fine bracelets; so, my child, content

"Myself! Oh, madame, I was not thinking of myself--I was not wishing for
bracelets; I was only thinking that--"

"That what?"

"That it is a pity you are so very rich; you have everything in this
world that you want, and I can never be of the least use to _you_--all my
life I shall never be able to do _you_ any good--and what," said
Victoire, turning away to hide her tears, "what signifies the gratitude
of such a poor little creature as I am?"

"Did you never hear the fable of the lion and the mouse, Victoire?"

"No, madame--never!"

"Then I will tell it to you."

Victoire looked up with eyes of eager expectation--Francois opened the
door to announce that the Marquis de M--- and the Comte de S--- were in
the saloon; but Madame de Fleury stayed to tell Victoire her fable--she
would not lose the opportunity of making an impression upon this child's

It is whilst the mind is warm that the deepest impressions can be made.
Seizing the happy moment sometimes decides the character and the fate of
a child. In this respect, what advantages have the rich and great in
educating the children of the poor! they have the power which their rank
and all its decorations obtain over the imagination. Their smiles are
favours; their words are listened to as oracular; they are looked up to
as beings of a superior order. Their powers of working good are almost
as great, though not quite so wonderful, as those formerly attributed to
beneficent, fairies.


"Knowledge for them unlocks her _useful_ page,
And virtue blossoms for a better age."--BARBAULD.

A few days after Madame de Fleury had told Victoire the fable of the lion
and the mouse, she was informed by Sister Frances that Victoire had put
the fable into verse. It was wonderfully well done for a child of nine
years old, and Madame de Fleury was tempted to praise the lines; but,
checking the enthusiasm of the moment, she considered whether it would be
advantageous to cultivate her pupil's talent for poetry. Excellence in
the poetic art cannot be obtained without a degree of application for
which a girl in her situation could not have leisure. To encourage her
to become a mere rhyming scribbler, without any chance of obtaining
celebrity or securing subsistence, would be folly and cruelty. Early
prodigies in the lower ranks of life are seldom permanently successful;
they are cried up one day, and cried down the next. Their productions
rarely have that superiority which secures a fair preference in the great
literary market. Their performances are, perhaps, said to be _wonderful,
all things considered_, &c. Charitable allowances are made; the books
are purchased by associations of complaisant friends or opulent patrons;
a kind of forced demand is raised, but this can be only temporary and
delusive. In spite of bounties and of all the arts of protection,
nothing but what is intrinsically good will long be preferred, when it
must be purchased. But granting that positive excellence is attained,
there is always danger that for works of fancy the taste of the public
may suddenly vary: there is a fashion in these things; and when the mode
changes, the mere literary manufacturer is thrown out of employment; he
is unable to turn his hand to another trade, or to any but his own
peculiar branch of the business. The powers of the mind are often
partially cultivated in these self-taught geniuses. We often see that
one part of their understanding is nourished to the prejudice of the
rest--the imagination, for instance, at the expense of the judgment: so
that whilst they have acquired talents for show they have none for use.
In the affairs of common life they are utterly ignorant and imbecile--or
worse than imbecile. Early called into public notice, probably before
their moral habits are formed, they are extolled for some play of fancy
or of wit, as Bacon calls it, some juggler's trick of the intellect; they
immediately take an aversion to plodding labour, they feel raised above
their situation; possessed by the notion that genius exempts them not
only from labour, but from vulgar rules of prudence, they soon disgrace
themselves by their conduct, are deserted by their patrons, and sink into
despair or plunge into profligacy.

Convinced of these melancholy truths, Madame de Fleury was determined not
to add to the number of those imprudent or ostentatious patrons, who
sacrifice to their own amusement and vanity the future happiness of their
favourites. Victoire's verses were not handed about in fashionable
circles, nor was she called upon to recite them before a brilliant
audience, nor was she produced in public as a prodigy; she was educated
in private, and by slow and sure degrees, to be a good, useful, and happy
member of society. Upon the same principles which decided Madame de
Fleury against encouraging Victoire to be a poetess, she refrained from
giving any of her little pupils accomplishments unsuited to their
situation. Some had a fine ear for music, others showed powers of
dancing; but they were taught neither dancing nor music--talents which in
their station were more likely to be dangerous than serviceable. They
were not intended for actresses or opera-girls, but for shop-girls,
mantua-makers, work-women, and servants of different sorts; consequently
they were instructed in things which would be most necessary and useful
to young women in their rank of life. Before they were ten years old
they could do all kinds of plain needlework, they could read and write
well, and they were mistresses of the common rules of arithmetic. After
this age they were practised by a writing-master in drawing out bills
neatly, keeping accounts, and applying to every-day use their knowledge
of arithmetic. Some were taught by a laundress to wash and get up fine
linen and lace; others were instructed by a neighbouring traiteur in
those culinary mysteries with which Sister Frances was unacquainted. In
sweetmeats and confectioneries she yielded to no one; and she made her
pupils as expert as herself. Those who were intended for ladies' maids
were taught mantua-making, and had lessons from Madame de Fleury's own
woman in hairdressing.

Amongst her numerous friends and acquaintances, and amongst the
shopkeepers whom she was in the habit of employing, Madame de Fleury had
means of placing and establishing her pupils suitably and advantageously:
of this, both they and their parents were aware, so that there was a
constant and great motive operating continually to induce them to exert
themselves, and to behave well. This reasonable hope of reaping the
fruits of their education, and of being immediately rewarded for their
good conduct; this perception of the connection between what they are
taught and what they are to become, is necessary to make young people
assiduous; for want of attending to these principles many splendid
establishments have failed to produce pupils answerable to the
expectations which had been formed of them.

During seven years that Madame de Fleury persevered uniformly on the same
plan, only one girl forfeited her protection--a girl of the name of
Manon; she was Victoire's cousin, but totally unlike her in character.

When very young, her beautiful eyes and hair caught the fancy of a rich
lady, who took her into her family as a sort of humble playfellow for her
children. She was taught to dance and to sing: she soon excelled in
these accomplishments, and was admired, and produced as a prodigy of
talent. The lady of the house gave herself great credit for having
discerned, and having brought forward, such talents. Manon's moral
character was in the meantime neglected. In this house, where there was
a constant scene of hurry and dissipation, the child had frequent
opportunities and temptations to be dishonest. For some time she was not
detected; her caressing manners pleased her patroness, and servile
compliance with the humours of the children of the family secured their
goodwill. Encouraged by daily petty successes in the art of deceit, she
became a complete hypocrite. With culpable negligence, her mistress
trusted implicitly to appearances; and without examining whether she were
really honest, she suffered her to have free access to unlocked drawers
and valuable cabinets. Several articles of dress were missed from time
to time; but Manon managed so artfully, that she averted from herself all
suspicion. Emboldened by this fatal impunity, she at last attempted
depredations of more importance. She purloined a valuable snuff-box--was
detected in disposing of the broken parts of it at a pawnbroker's, and
was immediately discarded in disgrace; but by her tears and vehement
expressions of remorse she so far worked upon the weakness of the lady of
the house as to prevail upon her to conceal the circumstance that
occasioned her dismissal. Some months afterwards, Manon, pleading that
she was thoroughly reformed, obtained from this lady a recommendation to
Madame de Fleury's school. It is wonderful that, people, who in other
respects profess and practise integrity, can be so culpably weak as to
give good characters to those who do not deserve them: this is really one
of the worst species of forgery. Imposed upon by this treacherous
recommendation, Madame de Fleury received into the midst of her innocent
young pupils one who might have corrupted their minds secretly and
irrecoverably. Fortunately a discovery was made in time of Manon's real
disposition. A mere trifle led to the detection of her habits of
falsehood. As she could not do any kind of needlework, she was employed
in winding cotton; she was negligent, and did not in the course of the
week wind the same number of balls as her companions; and to conceal
this, she pretended that she had delivered the proper number to the
woman, who regularly called at the end of the week for the cotton. The
woman persisted in her account, and the children in theirs; and Manon
would not retract her assertion. The poor woman gave up the point; but
she declared that she would the next time send her brother to make up the
account, because he was sharper than herself, and would not be imposed
upon so easily. The ensuing week the brother came, and he proved to be
the very pawnbroker to whom Manon formerly offered the stolen box: he
knew her immediately; it was in vain that she attempted to puzzle him,
and to persuade him that she was not the same person. The man was clear
and firm. Sister Frances could scarcely believe what she heard. Struck
with horror, the children shrank back from Manon, and stood in silence.
Madame de Fleury immediately wrote to the lady who had recommended this
girl, and inquired into the truth of the pawnbroker's assertions. The
lady, who had given Manon a false character, could not deny the facts,
and could apologise for herself only by saying that "she believed the
girl to be partly reformed, and that she hoped, under Madame de Fleury's
judicious care, she would become an amiable and respectable woman."

Madame de Fleury, however, wisely judged that the hazard of corrupting
all her pupils should not be incurred for the slight chance of correcting
one, whose bad habits wore of such long standing. Manon was expelled
from this happy little community--even Sister Frances, the most mild of
human beings, could never think of the danger to which they had been
exposed without expressing indignation against the lady who recommended
such a girl as a fit companion for her blameless and beloved pupils.


"Alas! regardless of their doom,
The little victims play:
No sense have they of ills to come,
No care beyond to-day."--GRAY.

Good legislators always attend to the habits, and what is called the
genius, of the people they have to govern. From youth to age, the taste
for whatever is called _une fete_ pervades the whole French nation.
Madame de Fleury availed herself judiciously of this powerful motive, and
connected it with the feelings of affection more than with the passion
for show. For instance, when any of her little people had done anything
particularly worthy of reward, she gave them leave to invite their
parents to a _fete_ prepared for them by their children, assisted by the
kindness of Sister Frances.

One day--it was a holiday obtained by Victoire's good conduct--all the
children prepared in their garden a little feast for their parents.
Sister Frances spread the table with a bountiful hand, the happy fathers
and mothers were waited upon by their children, and each in their turn
heard with delight from the benevolent nun some instance of their
daughter's improvement. Full of hope for the future and of gratitude for
the past, these honest people ate and talked, whilst in imagination they
saw their children all prosperously and usefully settled in the world.
They blessed Madame de Fleury in her absence, and they wished ardently
for her presence.

"The sun is setting, and Madame de Fleury is not yet come," cried
Victoire; "she said she would be here this evening--What can be the

"Nothing is the matter, you may be sure," said Babet; "but that she has
forgotten us--she has so many things to think of."

"Yes; but I know she never forgets us," said Victoire; "and she loves so
much to see us all happy together, that I am sure it must be something
very extraordinary that detains her."

Babet laughed at Victoire's fears; but presently even she began to grow
impatient; for they waited long after sunset, expecting every moment that
Madame de Fleury would arrive. At last she appeared, but with a dejected
countenance, which seemed to justify Victoire's foreboding. When she saw
this festive company, each child sitting between her parents, and all at
her entrance looking up with affectionate pleasure, a faint smile
enlivened her countenance for a moment; but she did not speak to them
with her usual ease. Her mind seemed preoccupied by some disagreeable
business of importance. It appeared that it had some connection with
them; for as she walked round the table with Sister Frances, she said,
with a voice and look of great tenderness, "Poor children! how happy they
are at this moment!--Heaven only knows how soon they may be rendered, or
may render themselves, miserable!"

None of the children could imagine what this meant; but their parents
guessed that it had some allusion to the state of public affairs. About
this time some of those discontents had broken out which preceded the
terrible days of the Revolution. As yet, most of the common people, who
were honestly employed in earning their own living, neither understood
what was going on nor foresaw what was to happen. Many of their
superiors were not in such happy ignorance--they had information of the
intrigues that were forming; and the more penetration they possessed, the
more they feared the consequences of events which they could not control.
At the house of a great man, with whom she had dined this day, Madame de
Fleury had heard alarming news. Dreadful public disturbances, she saw,
were inevitable; and whilst she trembled for the fate of all who were
dear to her, these poor children had a share in her anxiety. She foresaw
the temptations, the dangers, to which they must be exposed, whether they
abandoned, or whether they abided by the principles their education had
instilled. She feared that the labour of years would perhaps be lost in
an instant, or that her innocent pupils would fall victims even to their

Many of these young people were now of an age to understand and to govern
themselves by reason; and with these she determined to use those
preventive measures which reason affords. Without meddling with
politics, in which no amiable or sensible woman can wish to interfere,
the influence of ladies in the higher ranks of life may always be exerted
with perfect propriety, and with essential advantage to the public, in
conciliating the inferior classes of society, explaining to them their
duties and their interests, and impressing upon the minds of the children
of the poor sentiments of just subordination and honest independence. How
happy would it have been for France if women of fortune and abilities had
always exerted their talents and activity in this manner, instead of
wasting their powers in futile declamations, or in the intrigues of


"E'en now the devastation is begun,
And half the business of destruction done."


Madame de Fleury was not disappointed in her pupils. When the public
disturbances began, these children were shocked by the horrible actions
they saw. Instead of being seduced by bad example, they only showed
anxiety to avoid companions of their own age who were dishonest, idle, or
profligate. Victoire's cousin Manon ridiculed these absurd principles,
as she called them, and endeavoured to persuade Victoire that she would
be much happier if she followed the fashion.

"What! Victoire, still with your work-bag on your arm, and still going
to school with your little sister, though you are but a year younger than
I am, I believe!--thirteen last birthday, were not you?--Mon Dieu! Why,
how long do you intend to be a child? and why don't you leave that old
nun, who keeps you in leading-strings?--I assure you, nuns, and school-
mistresses, and schools, and all that sort of thing, are out of fashion
now--we have abolished all that--we are to live a life of reason now--and
all soon to be equal, I can tell you; let your Madame de Fleury look to
that, and look to it yourself; for with all your wisdom, you might find
yourself in the wrong box by sticking to her, and that side of the
question.--Disengage yourself from her, I advise you, as soon as you
can.--My dear Victoire! believe me, you may spell very well--but you know
nothing of the rights of man, or the rights of woman."

"I do not pretend to know anything of the rights of men, or the rights of
women," cried Victoire; "but this I know: that I never can or will be
ungrateful to Madame de Fleury. Disengage myself from her! I am bound
to her for ever, and I will abide by her till the last hour I breathe."

"Well, well! there is no occasion to be in a passion--I only speak as a
friend, and I have no more time to reason with you; for I must go home,
and get ready my dress for the ball to-night."

"Manon, how can you afford to buy a dress for a ball?"

"As you might, if you had common sense, Victoire--only by being a good
citizen. I and a party of us denounced a milliner and a confectioner in
our neighbourhood, who were horrible aristocrats; and of their goods
forfeited to the nation we had, as was our just share, such delicious
_marangues_ and charming ribands!--Oh, Victoire, believe me, you will
never get such things by going to school, or saying your prayers either.
You may look with as much scorn and indignation as you please, but I
advise you to let it alone, for all that is out of fashion, and may,
moreover, bring you into difficulties. Believe me, my dear Victoire,
your head is not deep enough to understand these things--you know nothing
of politics."

"But I know the difference between right and wrong, Manon: politics can
never alter that, you know."

"Never alter that! there you are quite mistaken," said Manon. "I cannot
stay to convince you now--but this I can tell you: that I know secrets
that you don't suspect."

"I do not wish to know any of your secrets, Manon," said Victoire,

"Your pride may be humbled, Citoyenne Victoire, sooner than you expect,"
exclaimed Manon, who was now so provoked by her cousin's contempt that
she could not refrain from boasting of her political knowledge. "I can
tell you that your fine friends will in a few days not be able to protect
you. The Abbe Tracassier is in love with a dear friend of mine, and I
know all the secrets of state from her--and I know what I know. Be as
incredulous as you please, but you will see that, before this week is at
end, Monsieur de Fleury will be guillotined, and then what will become of
you? Good morning, my proud cousin."

Shocked by what she had just heard, Victoire could scarcely believe that
Manon was in earnest; she resolved, however, to go immediately and
communicate this intelligence, whether true or false, to Madame de
Fleury. It agreed but too well with other circumstances, which alarmed
this lady for the safety of her husband. A man of his abilities,
integrity, and fortune, could not in such times hope to escape
persecution. He was inclined to brave the danger; but his lady
represented that it would not be courage, but rashness and folly, to
sacrifice his life to the villainy of others, without probability or
possibility of serving his country by his fall.

Monsieur de Fleury, in consequence of these representations, and of
Victoire's intelligence, made his escape from Paris; and the very next
day placards were put up in every street, offering a price for the head
of Citoyen Fleury, _suspected of incivisme_.

Struck with terror and astonishment at the sight of these placards, the
children read them as they returned in the evening from school; and
little Babet in the vehemence of her indignation mounted a lamplighter's
ladder, and tore down one of the papers. This imprudent action did not
pass unobserved: it was seen by one of the spies of Citoyen Tracassier, a
man who, under the pretence of zeal _pour la chose publique_, gratified
without scruple his private resentments and his malevolent passions. In
his former character of an abbe, and a man of wit, he had gained
admittance into Madame de Fleury's society. There he attempted to
dictate both as a literary and religious despot. Accidentally
discovering that Madame de Fleury had a little school for poor children,
he thought proper to be offended, because he had not been consulted
respecting the regulations, and because he was not permitted, as he said,
to take the charge of this little flock. He made many objections to
Sister Frances, as being an improper person to have the spiritual
guidance of these young people; but as he was unable to give any just
reason for his dislike, Madame de Fleury persisted in her choice, and was
at last obliged to assert, in opposition to the domineering abbe, her
right to judge and decide in her own affairs. With seeming politeness,
he begged ten thousand pardons for his conscientious interference. No
more was said upon the subject; and as he did not totally withdraw from
her society till the revolution broke out, she did not suspect that she
had anything to fear from his resentment. His manners and opinions
changed suddenly with the times; the mask of religion was thrown off; and
now, instead of objecting to Sister Frances as not being sufficiently
strict and orthodox in her tenets, he boldly declared that a nun was not
a fit person to be intrusted with the education of any of the young
citizens--they should all be _des eleves de la patrie_. The abbe, become
a member of the Committee of Public Safety, denounced Madame de Fleury,
in the strange jargon of the day, as "_the fosterer of a swarm of bad
citizens, who were nourished in the anticivic prejudices_ de l'ancien
regime, _and fostered in the most detestable superstitions, in defiance
of the law_." He further observed, that he had good reason to believe
that some of these little enemies to the constitution had contrived and
abetted Monsieur de Fleury's escape. Of their having rejoiced at it in a
most indecent manner, he said he could produce irrefragable proof. The
boy who saw Babet tear down the placard was produced and solemnly
examined; and the thoughtless action of this poor little girl was
construed into a state crime of the most horrible nature. In a
declamatory tone, Tracassier reminded his fellow-citizens, that in the
ancient Grecian times of virtuous republicanism (times of which France
ought to show herself emulous), an Athenian child was condemned to death
for having made a plaything of a fragment of the gilding that had fallen
from a public statue. The orator, for the reward of his eloquence,
obtained an order to seize everything in Madame de Fleury's school-house,
and to throw the nun into prison.


"Who now will guard bewildered youth
Safe from the fierce assault of hostile rage?--
Such war can Virtue wage?"

At the very moment when this order was going to be put in execution,
Madame de Fleury was sitting in the midst of the children, listening to
Babet, who was reading AEsop's fable of _The old man and his sons_.
Whilst her sister was reading, Victoire collected a number of twigs from
the garden: she had just tied them together; and was going, by Sister
Frances' desire, to let her companions try if they could break the
bundle, when the attention to the moral of the fable was interrupted by
the entrance of an old woman, whose countenance expressed the utmost
terror and haste, to tell what she had not breath to utter. To Madame de
Fleury she was a stranger; but the children immediately recollected her
to be the chestnut woman to whom Babet had some years ago restored
certain purloined chestnuts.

"Fly!" said she, the moment she had breath to speak: "Fly!--they are
coming to seize everything here--carry off what you can--make haste--make
haste!--I came through a by-street. A man was eating chestnuts at my
stall, and I saw him show one that was with him the order from Citoyen
Tracassier. They'll be here in five minutes--quick!--quick!--You, in
particular," continued she, turning to the nun, "else you'll be in

At these words, the children, who had clung round Sister Frances, loosed
their hold, exclaiming, "Go! go quick: but where? where?--we will go with

"No, no!" said Madame de Fleury, "she shall come home with me--my
carriage is at the door."

"Ma belle dame!" cried the chestnut woman, "your house is the worst place
she can go to--let her come to my cellar--the poorest cellar in these
days is safer than the grandest palace."

So saying, she seized the nun with honest roughness, and hurried her
away. As soon as she was gone, the children ran different ways, each to
collect some favourite thing, which they thought they could not leave
behind. Victoire alone stood motionless beside Madame de Fleury; her
whole thoughts absorbed by the fear that her benefactress would be
imprisoned. "Oh, madame! dear, dear Madame de Fleury, don't stay! don't

"Oh, children, never mind these things."

"Don't stay, madame, don't stay! I will stay with them--I will stay--do
you go."

The children hearing these words, and recollecting Madame de Fleury's
danger, abandoned all their little property, and instantly obeyed her
orders to go home to their parents. Victoire at last saw Madame de
Fleury safe in her carriage. The coachman drove off at a great rate; and
a few minutes afterwards Tracassier's myrmidons arrived at the school-
house. Great was their surprise when they found only the poor children's
little books, unfinished samplers, and half-hemmed handkerchiefs. They
ran into the garden to search for the nun. They were men of brutal
habits, yet as they looked at everything round them, which bespoke peace,
innocence, and childish happiness, they could not help thinking it was a
pity to destroy what could do the nation no great harm after all. They
were even glad that the nun had made her escape, since they were not
answerable for it; and they returned to their employer satisfied for once
without doing any mischief; but Citizen Tracassier was of too vindictive
a temper to suffer the objects of his hatred thus to elude his vengeance.
The next day Madame de Fleury was summoned before his tribunal and
ordered to give up the nun, against whom, as a suspected person, a decree
of the law had been obtained.

Madame de Fleury refused to betray the innocent woman; the gentle
firmness of this lady's answers to a brutal interrogatory was termed
insolence--she was pronounced a refractory aristocrat, dangerous to the
state; and an order was made out to seal up her goods, and to keep her a
prisoner in her own house.


"Alas! full oft on Guilt's victorious car
The spoils of Virtue are in triumph borne,
While the fair captive, marked with many a scar,
In lone obscurity, oppressed, forlorn,
Resigns to tears her angel form."--BEATTIE.

A close prisoner in her own house, Madame de Fleury was now guarded by
men suddenly become soldiers, and sprung from the dregs of the people;
men of brutal manners, ferocious countenances, and more ferocious minds.
They seemed to delight in the insolent display of their newly-acquired
power. One of those men had formerly been convicted of some horrible
crime, and had been sent to the galleys by M. de Fleury. Revenge
actuated this wretch under the mask of patriotism, and he rejoiced in
seeing the wife of the man he hated a prisoner in his custody. Ignorant
of the facts, his associates were ready to believe him in the right, and
to join in the senseless cry against all who were their superiors in
fortune, birth, and education. This unfortunate lady was forbidden all
intercourse with her friends, and it was in vain she attempted to obtain
from her gaolers intelligence of what was passing in Paris.

"Tu verras--Tout va bien--Ca ira," were the only answers they deigned to
make; frequently they continued smoking their pipes in obdurate silence.
She occupied the back rooms of her house, because her guards apprehended
that she might from the front windows receive intelligence from her
friends. One morning she was awakened by an unusual noise in the
streets; and, upon her inquiring the occasion of it, her guards told her
she was welcome to go to the front windows and satisfy her curiosity. She
went, and saw an immense crowd of people surrounding a guillotine that
had been erected the preceding night. Madame de Fleury started back with
horror--her guards burst into an inhuman laugh, and asked whether her
curiosity was satisfied. She would have left the room; but it was now
their pleasure to detain her, and to force her to continue the whole day
in this apartment. When the guillotine began its work, they had even the
barbarity to drag her to the window, repeating, "It is there you ought to
be!--It is there your husband ought to be!--You are too happy, that your
husband is not there this moment. But he will be there--the law will
overtake him--he will be there in time--and you too!"

The mild fortitude of this innocent, benevolent woman made no impression
upon these cruel men. When at night they saw her kneeling at her
prayers, they taunted her with gross and impious mockery; and when she
sank to sleep, they would waken her by their loud and drunken orgies--if
she remonstrated, they answered, "The enemies of the constitution should
have no rest."

Madame de Fleury was not an enemy to any human being; she had never
interfered in politics; her life had been passed in domestic pleasures,
or employed for the good of her fellow-creatures. Even in this hour of
personal danger she thought of others more than of herself: she thought
of her husband, an exile in a foreign country, who might be reduced to
the utmost distress now that she was deprived of all means of remitting
him money. She thought of her friends, who, she knew, would exert
themselves to obtain her liberty, and whose zeal in her cause might
involve them and their families in distress. She thought of the good
Sister Frances, who had been exposed by her means to the unrelenting
persecution of the malignant and powerful Tracassier. She thought of her
poor little pupils, now thrown upon the world without a protector. Whilst
these ideas were revolving in her mind one night as she lay awake, she
heard the door of her chamber open softly, and a soldier, one of her
guards, with a light in his hand, entered; he came to the foot of her
bed, and, as she started up, laid his finger upon his lips.

"Don't make the least noise," said he in a whisper; "those without are
drunk, and asleep. Don't you know me?--don't you remember my face?"

"Not in the least; yet I have some recollection of your voice."

The man took off the bonnet-rouge--still she could not guess who he was.
"You never saw me in a uniform before nor without a black face."

She looked again, and recollected the smith to whom Maurice was bound
apprentice, and remembered his _patois_ accent.

"I remember you," said he, "at any rate; and your goodness to that poor
girl the day her arm was broken, and all your goodness to Maurice. But
I've no time for talking of that now--get up, wrap this great coat round
you--don't be in a hurry, but make no noise--and follow me."

She followed him; and he led her past the sleeping sentinels, opened a
back door into the garden, hurried her (almost carried her) across the
garden to a door at the furthest end of it, which opened into Les Champs
Elysees--"La voila!" cried he, pushing her through the half-opened door.
"God be praised!" answered a voice, which Madame de Fleury knew to be
Victoire's, whose arms were thrown round her with a transport of joy.

"Softly; she is not safe yet--wait till we get her home, Victoire," said
another voice, which she knew to be that of Maurice. He produced a dark
lantern, and guided Madame de Fleury across the Champs Elysees, and
across the bridge, and then through various by-streets, in perfect
silence, till they arrived safely at the house where Victoire's mother
lodged, and went up those very stairs which she had ascended in such
different circumstances several years before. The mother, who was
sitting up waiting most anxiously for the return of her children, clasped
her hands in an ecstasy when she saw them return with Madame de Fleury.

"Welcome, madame! Welcome, dear madame! but who would have thought of
seeing you here in such a way? Let her rest herself--let her rest; she
is quite overcome. Here, madame, can you sleep on this poor bed?"

"The very same bed you laid me upon the day my arm was broken," said

"Ay, Lord bless her!" said the mother; "and though it's seven good years
ago, it seemed but yesterday that I saw her sitting on that bed beside my
poor child looking like an angel. But let her rest, let her rest--we'll
not say a word more, only God bless her; thank Heaven, she's safe with us
at last!"

Madame de Fleury expressed unwillingness to stay with these good people,
lest she should expose them to danger; but they begged most earnestly
that she would remain with them without scruple.

"Surely, madame," said the mother, "you must think that we have some
remembrance of all you have done for us, and some touch of gratitude."

"And surely, madame, you can trust us, I hope," said Maurice.

"And surely you are not too proud to let us do something for you. The
lion was not too proud to be served by the poor little mouse," said
Victoire. "As to danger for us," continued she, "there can be none; for
Maurice and I have contrived a hiding-place for you, madame, that can
never be found out--let them come spying here as often as they please,
they will never find her out, will they, Maurice? Look, madame, into
this lumber-room; you see it seems to be quite full of wood for firing;
well, if you creep in behind, you can hide yourself quite sung in the
loft above, and here's a trap-door into the loft that nobody ever would
think of, for we have hung these old things from the top of it, and who
could guess it was a trap-door? So you see, dear madame, you may sleep
in peace here, and never fear for us."

Though but a girl of fourteen, Victoire showed at this time all the sense
and prudence of a woman of thirty. Gratitude seemed at once to develop
all the powers of her mind. It was she and Maurice who had prevailed
upon the smith to effect Madame de Fleury's escape from her own house.
She had invented, she had foreseen, she had arranged everything; she had
scarcely rested night or day since the imprisonment of her benefactress,
and now that her exertions had fully succeeded, her joy seemed to raise
her above all feeling of fatigue; she looked as fresh and moved as
briskly, her mother said, as if she were preparing to go to a ball.

"Ah! my child," said she, "your cousin Manon, who goes to those balls
every night, was never so happy as you are this minute."

But Victoire's happiness was not of long continuance; for the next day
they were alarmed by intelligence that Tracassier was enraged beyond
measure at Madame de Fleury's escape, that all his emissaries were at
work to discover her present hiding-place, that the houses of all the
parents and relations of her pupils were to be searched, and that the
most severe denunciations were issued against all by whom she should be
harboured. Manon was the person who gave this intelligence, but not with
any benevolent design; she first came to Victoire, to display her own
consequence; and to terrify her, she related all she knew from a
soldier's wife, who was M. Tracassier's mistress. Victoire had
sufficient command over herself to conceal from the inquisitive eyes of
Manon the agitation of her heart; she had also the prudence not to let
any one of her companions into her secret, though, when she saw their
anxiety, she was much tempted to relieve them, by the assurance that
Madame de Fleury was in safety. All the day was passed in apprehension.
Madame de Fleury never stirred from her place of concealment: as the
evening and the hour of the domiciliary visits approached, Victoire and
Maurice were alarmed by an unforeseen difficulty. Their mother, whose
health had been broken by hard work, in vain endeavoured to suppress her
terror at the thoughts of this domiciliary visit; she repeated
incessantly that she knew they should all be discovered, and that her
children would be dragged to the guillotine before her face. She was in
such a distracted state, that they dreaded she would, the moment she saw
the soldiers, reveal all she knew.

"If they question me, I shall not know what to answer," cried the
terrified woman. "What can I say?--What can I do?"

Reasoning, entreaties, all were vain; she was not in a condition to
understand, or even to listen to, anything that was said. In this
situation they were when the domiciliary visitors arrived--they heard the
noise of the soldiers' feet on the stairs--the poor woman sprang from the
arms of her children; but at the moment the door was opened, and she saw
the glittering of the bayonets, she fell at full length in a swoon on the
floor--fortunately before she had power to utter a syllable. The people
of the house knew, and said, that she was subject to fits on any sudden
alarm; so that her being affected in this manner did not appear
surprising. They threw her on a bed, whilst they proceeded to search the
house: her children stayed with her; and, wholly occupied in attending to
her, they were not exposed to the danger of betraying their anxiety about
Madame de Fleury. They trembled, however, from head to foot when they
heard one of the soldiers swear that all the wood in the lumber-room must
be pulled out, and that he would not leave the house till every stick was
moved; the sound of each log, as it was thrown out, was heard by
Victoire; her brother was now summoned to assist. How great was his
terror when one of the searchers looked up to the roof, as if expecting
to find a trap door; fortunately, however, he did not discover it.
Maurice, who had seized the light, contrived to throw the shadows so as
to deceive the eye. The soldiers at length retreated; and with
inexpressible satisfaction Maurice lighted them down stairs, and saw them
fairly out of the house. For some minutes after they were in safety, the
terrified mother, who had recovered her senses, could scarcely believe
that the danger was over. She embraced her children by turns with wild
transport; and with tears begged Madame de Fleury to forgive her
cowardice, and not to attribute it to ingratitude, or to suspect that she
had a bad heart. She protested that she was now become so courageous,
since she found that she had gone through this trial successfully, and
since she was sure that the hiding-place was really so secure, that she
should never be alarmed at any domiciliary visit in future. Madame de
Fleury, however, did not think it either just or expedient to put her
resolution to the trial. She determined to leave Paris; and, if
possible, to make her escape from France. The master of one of the Paris
diligences was brother to Francois, her footman: he was ready to assist
her at all hazards, and to convey her safely to Bourdeaux, if she could
disguise herself properly; and if she could obtain a pass from any friend
under a feigned name.

Victoire--the indefatigable Victoire--recollected that her friend Annette
had an aunt, who was nearly of Madame de Fleury's size, and who had just
obtained a pass to go to Bourdeaux, to visit some of her relations. The
pass was willingly given up to Madame de Fleury; and upon reading it over
it was found to answer tolerably well--the colour of the eyes and hair at
least would do; though the words _un nez gros_ were not precisely
descriptive of this lady's. Annette's mother, who had always worn the
provincial dress of Auvergne, furnished the high _cornette_, stiff stays,
bodice, &c.; and equipped in these, Madame de Fleury was so admirably
well disguised, that even Victoire declared she should scarcely have
known her. Money, that most necessary passport in all countries, was
still wanting: as seals had been put upon all Madame de Fleury's effects
the day she had been first imprisoned in her own house, she could not
save even her jewels. She had, however, one ring on her finger of some
value. How to dispose of it without exciting suspicion was the
difficulty. Babet, who was resolved to have her share in assisting her
benefactress, proposed to carry the ring to a _colporteur_--a pedlar, or
sort of travelling jeweller--who had come to lay in a stock of hardware
at Paris: he was related to one of Madame de Fleury's little pupils, and
readily disposed of the ring for her: she obtained at least two-thirds of
its value--a great deal in those times.

The proofs of integrity, attachment, and gratitude which she received in
these days of peril, from those whom she had obliged in her prosperity,
touched her generous heart so much, that she has often since declared she
could not regret having been reduced to distress. Before she quitted
Paris she wrote letters to her friends, recommending her pupils to their
protection; she left these letters in the care of Victoire, who to the
last moment followed her with anxious affection. She would have followed
her benefactress into exile, but that she was prevented by duty and
affection from leaving her mother, who was in declining health.

Madame de Fleury successfully made her escape from Paris. Some of the
municipal officers in the towns through which she passed on her road were
as severe as their ignorance would permit in scrutinising her passport.
It seldom happened that more than one of these petty committees of public
safety could read. One usually spelled out the passport as well as he
could, whilst the others smoked their pipes, and from time to time held a
light up to the lady's face to examine whether it agreed with the

"Mais toi! tu n'as pas le nez gros!" said one of her judges to her. "Son
nez est assez gros, et c'est moi qui le dit," said another. The question
was put to the vote; and the man who had asserted what was contrary to
the evidence of his senses was so vehement in supporting his opinion,
that it was carried in spite of all that could be said against it. Madame
de Fleury was suffered to proceed on her journey. She reached Bordeaux
in safety. Her husband's friends--the good have always friends in
adversity--her husband's friends exerted themselves for her with the most
prudent zeal. She was soon provided with a sum of money sufficient for
her support for some time in England; and she safely reached that free
and happy country, which has been the refuge of so many illustrious


"Cosi rozzo diamante appena splende
Dalla rupe natia quand' esce fuora,
E a poco a poco lucido se rende
Sotto l'attenta che lo lavora."

Madame de Fleury joined her husband, who was in London, and they both
lived in the most retired and frugal manner. They had too much of the
pride of independence to become burthensome to their generous English
friends. Notwithstanding the variety of difficulties they had to
encounter, and the number of daily privations to which they were forced
to submit, yet they were happy--in a tranquil conscience, in their mutual
affection, and the attachment of many poor but grateful friends. A few
months after she came to England, Madame de Fleury received, by a private
hand, a packet of letters from her little pupils. Each of them, even the
youngest, who had but just begun to learn joining-hand, would write a few
lines in this packet.

In various hands, of various sizes, the changes were rung upon these
simple words:--


"I love you--I wish you were here again--I will be _very very_ good
whilst you are away. If you stay away ever so long, I shall never
forget you, nor your goodness; but I hope you will soon be able to
come back, and this is what I pray for every night. Sister Frances
says I may tell you that I am very good, and Victoire thinks so too."

This was the substance of several of their little letters. Victoire's
contained rather more information:--

"You will be glad to learn that dear Sister Frances is safe, and that
the good chestnut-woman, in whose cellar she took refuge, did not get
into any difficulty. After you were gone, M. T--- said that he did
not think it worth while to pursue her, as it was only you he wanted
to humble. Manon, who has, I do not know how, means of knowing, told
me this. Sister Frances is now with her abbess, who, as well as
everybody else that knows her, is very fond of her. What was a
convent is no longer a convent--the nuns are turned out of it. Sister
Frances' health is not so good as it used to be, though she never
complains. I am sure she suffers much; she has never been the same
person since that day when we were driven from our happy schoolroom.
It is all destroyed--the garden and everything. It is now a dismal
sight. Your absence also afflicts Sister Frances much, and she is in
great anxiety about all of us. She has the six little ones with her
every day in her own apartment, and goes on teaching them as she used
to do. We six eldest go to see her as often as we can. I should have
begun, my dear Madame de Fleury, by telling you, that, the day after
you left Paris, I went to deliver all the letters you were so very
kind to write for us in the midst of your hurry. Your friends have
been exceedingly good to us, and have got places for us all. Rose is
with Madame la Grace, your mantua-maker, who says she is more handy
and more expert at cutting out than girls she has had these three
years. Marianne is in the service of Madame de V---, who has lost a
great part of her large fortune, and cannot afford to keep her former
waiting-maid. Madame de V--- is well pleased with Marianne, and bids
me tell you that she thanks you for her. Indeed, Marianne, though she
is only fourteen, can do everything her lady wants. Susanne is with a
confectioner. She gave Sister Frances a box of _bonbons_ of her own
making this morning; and Sister Frances, who is a judge, says they are
excellent--she only wishes you could taste them. Annette and I
(thanks to your kindness!) are in the same service with Madame
Feuillot, the _brodeuse_, to whom you recommended us. She is not
discontented with our work, and, indeed, sent a very civil message
yesterday to Sister Frances on this subject; but believe it is too
flattering for me to repeat in this letter. We shall do our best to
give her satisfaction. She is glad to find that we can write
tolerably, and that we can make out bills and keep accounts, this
being particularly convenient to her at present, as the young man she
had in the shop is become an orator, and good for nothing but _la
chose publique_; her son, who could have supplied his place, is ill;
and Madame Feuillot herself, not having had, as she says, the
advantage of such a good education as we have been blessed with,
writes but badly, and knows nothing of arithmetic. Dear Madame de
Fleury, how much, how very much we are obliged to you! We feel it
every day more and more; in these times what would have become of us
if we could do nothing useful? Who would, who could be burdened with
us? Dear madame, we owe everything to you--and we can do nothing, not
the least thing for you! My mother is still in bad health, and I fear
will never recover; Babet is with her always, and Sister Frances is
very good to her. My brother Maurice is now so good a workman that he
earns a louis a week. He is very steady to his business, and never
goes to the revolutionary meetings, though once he had a great mind to
be an orator of the people, but never since the day that you explained
to him that he knew nothing about equality and the rights of men, &c.
How could I forget to tell you, that his master the smith, who was one
of your guards, and who assisted you to escape, has returned without
suspicion to his former trade? and he declares that he will never more
meddle with public affairs. I gave him the money you left with me for
him. He is very kind to my brother. Yesterday Maurice mended for
Annette's mistress the lock of an English writing-desk, and he mended
it so astonishingly well, that an English gentleman, who saw it, could
not believe the work was done by a Frenchman; so my brother was sent
for, to prove it, and they were forced to believe it. To-day he has
more work than he can finish this twelve-month--all this we owe to
you. I shall never forget the day when you promised that you would
grant my brother's wish to be apprenticed to the smith, if I was not
in a passion for a month; that cured me of being so passionate.

"Dear Madame de Fleury, I have written you too long a letter, and not
so well as I can write when I am not in a hurry; but I wanted to tell
you everything at once, because, may be, I shall not for a long time
have so safe an opportunity of sending a letter to you.


Several months elapsed before Madame do Fleury received another letter
from Victoire; it was short and evidently written in great distress of
mind. It contained an account of her mother's death. She was now left
at the early age of sixteen an orphan. Madame Feuillot, the _brodeuse_,
with whom she lived, added few lines to her letter, penned with
difficulty and strangely spelled, but, expressive of her being highly
pleased with both the girls recommended to her by Madame de Fleury,
especially Victoire, who she said was such a treasure to her, that she
would not part with her on any account, and should consider her as a
daughter. "I tell her not to grieve so much; for though she has lost one
mother she has gained another for herself, who will always love her; and
besides she is so useful, and in so many ways, with her pen and her
needle, in accounts, and everything that is wanted in a family or a shop;
she can never want employment or friends in the worst times, and none can
be worse than these, especially for such pretty girls as she is, who have
all their heads turned, and are taught to consider nothing a sin that
used to be sins. Many gentlemen, who come to our shop, have found out
that Victoire is very handsome, and tell her so; but she is so modest and
prudent that I am not afraid for her. I could tell you, madame, a good
anecdote on this subject, but my paper will not allow, and, besides, my
writing is so difficult."

Above a year elapsed before Madame de Fleury received another letter from
Victoire: this was in a parcel, of which an emigrant took charge; it
contained a variety of little offerings from her pupils, instances of
their ingenuity, their industry, and their affection; the last thing in
the packet was a small purse labelled in this manner--

"_Savings from our wages and earnings for her who taught us all we


"Dans sa pompe elegante, admirez Chantilly,
De heros en heros, d'age en age, embelli."--DE LILLE.

The health of the good Sister Frances, which had suffered much from the
shock her mind received at the commencement of the revolution, declined
so rapidly in the course of the two succeeding years, that she was
obliged to leave Paris, and she retired to a little village in the
neighbourhood of Chantilly. She chose this situation because here she
was within a morning's walk of Madame de Fleury's country-seat. The
Chateau de Fleury had not yet been seized as national property, nor had
it suffered from the attacks of the mob, though it was in a perilous
situation, within view of the high road to Paris. The Parisian populace
had not yet extended their outrages to this distance from the city, and
the poor people who lived on the estate of Fleury, attached from habit,
principle, and gratitude, to their lord, were not disposed to take
advantage of the disorder of the times, to injure the property of those
from whom they had all their lives received favours and protection. A
faithful old steward had the care of the castle and the grounds. Sister
Frances was impatient to talk to him and to visit the chateau, which she
had never seen; but for some days after her arrival in the village she
was so much fatigued and so weak that she could not attempt so long a
walk. Victoire had obtained permission from her mistress to accompany
the nun for a few days to the country, as Annette undertook to do all the
business of the shop during the absence of her companion. Victoire was
fully as eager as Sister Frances to see the faithful steward and the
Chateau de Fleury, and the morning was now fixed for their walk; but in
the middle of the night they were awakened by the shouts of a mob, who
had just entered the village fresh from the destruction of a neighbouring
castle. The nun and Victoire listened; but in the midst of the horrid
yells of joy no human voice, no intelligible word could be distinguished;
they looked through a chink in the window-shutter and they saw the street
below filled with a crowd of men, whose countenances were by turns
illuminated by the glare of the torches which they brandished.

"Good Heavens!" whispered the nun to Victoire: "I should know the face of
that man who is loading his musket--the very man whom I nursed ten years
ago when he was ill with a gaol fever!"

This man, who stood in the midst of the crowd, taller by the head than
the others, seemed to be the leader of the party; they were disputing
whether they should proceed further, spend the remainder of the night in
the village ale-house, or return to Paris. Their leader ordered spirits
to be distributed to his associates, and exhorted them in a loud voice to
proceed in their glorious work. Tossing his firebrand over his head he
declared that he would never return to Paris till he had razed to the
ground the Chateau de Fleury. At these words, Victoire, forgetful of all
personal danger, ran out into the midst of the mob, pressed her way up to
the leader of these ruffians, caught him by the arm, exclaiming, "You
will not touch a stone in the Chateau de Fleury--I have my reasons--I say
you will not suffer a stone in the Chateau de Fleury to be touched."

"And why not?" cried the man, turning astonished; "and who are you that I
should listen to you?"

"No matter who I am," said Victoire; "follow me and I will show you one
to whom you will not refuse to listen. Here!--here she is," continued
Victoire, pointing to the nun, who had followed her in amazement; "here
is one to whom you will listen--yes, look at her well: hold the light to
her face."

The nun, in a supplicating attitude, stood in speechless expectation.

"Ay, I see you have gratitude, I know you will have mercy," cried
Victoire, watching the workings in the countenance of the man; "you will
save the Chateau de Fleury for her sake--who saved your life."

"I will," cried this astonished chief of a mob, fired with sudden
generosity. "By my faith you are a brave girl, and a fine girl, and know
how to speak to the heart, and in the right moment. Friends, citizens,
this nun, though she is a nun, is good for something. When I lay ill
with a fever, and not a soul else to help me, she came and gave me
medicines and food--in short, I owe my life to her. 'Tis ten years ago,
but I remember it well, and now it is our turn to rule, and she shall be
paid as she deserves. Not a stone of the Chateau de Fleury shall be

With loud acclamations the mob joined in the generous enthusiasm of the
moment and followed their leader peaceably out of the village. All this
passed with such rapidity as scarcely to leave the impression of reality
upon the mind. As soon as the sun rose in the morning Victoire looked
out for the turrets of the Chateau de Fleury, and she saw that they were
safe--safe in the midst of the surrounding devastation. Nothing remained
of the superb palace of Chantilly but the white arches of its foundation.


"When thy last breath, ere Nature sank to rest
Thy meek submission to thy God expressed;
When thy last look, ere thought and feeling fled,
A mingled gleam of hope and triumph shed;
What to thy soul its glad assurance gave--
Its hope in death, its triumph o'er the grave?
The sweet remembrance of unblemished youth,
Th' inspiring voice of innocence and truth!"--ROGERS.

The good Sister Frances, though she had scarcely recovered from the shock
of the preceding night, accompanied Victoire to the Chateau de Fleury.
The gates were opened for them by the old steward and his son Basile, who
welcomed them with all the eagerness with which people welcome friends in
time of adversity. The old man showed them the place; and through every
apartment of the castle went on talking of former times, and with
narrative fondness told anecdotes of his dear master and mistress. Here
his lady used to sit and read--here was the table at which she wrote--this
was the sofa on which she and the ladies sat the very last day she was at
the castle, at the open windows of the hall, whilst all the tenants and
people of the village were dancing on the green.

"Ay, those were happy times," said the old man; "but they will never

"Never! Oh do not say so," cried Victoire.

"Never during my life, at least," said the nun in a low voice, and with a
look of resignation.

Basile, as he wiped the tears from his eyes, happened to strike his arm
against the chord of Madame de Fleury's harp, and the sound echoed
through the room.

"Before this year is at an end," cried Victoire, "perhaps that harp will
be struck again in this Chateau by Madame de Fleury herself. Last night
we could hardly have hoped to see these walls standing this morning, and
yet it is safe--not a stone touched! Oh, we shall all live, I hope, to
see better times!"

Sister Frances smiled, for she would not depress Victoire's enthusiastic
hope: to please her, the good nun added, that she felt better this
morning than she had felt for months, and Victoire was happier than she
had been since Madame de Fleury left France. But, alas! it was only a
transient gleam. Sister Frances relapsed and declined so rapidly, that
even Victoire, whose mind was almost always disposed to hope, despaired
of her recovery. With placid resignation, or rather with mild
confidence, this innocent and benevolent creature met the approach of
death. She seemed attached to earth only by affection for those whom she
was to leave in this world. Two of the youngest of the children who had
formerly been placed under her care, and who were not yet able to earn
their own subsistence, she kept with her, and in the last days of her
life she continued her instructions to them with the fond solicitude of a
parent. Her father confessor, an excellent man, who never even in these
dangerous times shrank from his duty, came to Sister Frances in her last
moments, and relieved her mind from all anxiety, by promising to place
the two little children with the lady who had been abbess of her convent,
who would to the utmost of her power protect and provide for them
suitably. Satisfied by this promise, the good Sister Frances smiled upon
Victoire, who stood beside her bed, and with that smile upon her
countenance expired.--It was some time before the little children seemed
to comprehend, or to believe, that Sister Frances was dead: they had
never before seen any one die; they had no idea what it was to die, and
their first feeling was astonishment; they did not seem to understand why
Victoire wept. But the next day when no Sister Frances spoke to them,
when every hour they missed some accustomed kindness from her,--when
presently they saw the preparations for her funeral,--when they heard
that she was to be buried in the earth, and that they should never see
her more,--they could neither play nor eat, but sat in a corner holding
each other's hands, and watching everything that was done for the dead by

In those times, the funeral of a nun, with a priest attending, would not
have been permitted by the populace. It was therefore performed as
secretly as possible: in the middle of the night the coffin was carried
to the burial-place of the Fleury family; the old steward, his son
Basile, Victoire, and the good father confessor, were the only persons
present. It is necessary to mention this, because the facts were
afterwards misrepresented.


"The character is lost!
Her head adorned with lappets, pinned aloft,
And ribands streaming gay, superbly raised,
Indebted to some smart wig-weaver's hand
For more than half the tresses it sustains."--COWPER.

Upon her return to Paris, Victoire felt melancholy; but she exerted
herself as much as possible in her usual occupation; finding that
employment and the consciousness of doing her duty were the best remedies
for sorrow.

One day as she was busy settling Madame Feuillot's accounts a servant
came into the shop and inquired for Mademoiselle Victoire: he presented
her a note, which she found rather difficult to decipher. It was signed
by her cousin Manon, who desired to see Victoire at her hotel. "_Her
hotel_!" repeated Victoire with astonishment. The servant assured her
that one of the finest hotels in Paris belonged to his lady, and that he
was commissioned to show her the way to it. Victoire found her cousin in
a magnificent house, which had formerly belonged to the Prince de Salms.
Manon, dressed in the disgusting, indecent extreme of the mode, was
seated under a richly-fringed canopy. She burst into a loud laugh as
Victoire entered.

"You look just as much astonished as I expected," cried she. "Great
changes have happened since I saw you last--I always told you, Victoire,
I knew the world better than you did. What has come of all your
schooling, and your mighty goodness, and your gratitude truly? Your
patroness is banished and a beggar, and you a drudge in the shop of a
_brodeuse_, who makes you work your fingers to the bone, no doubt. Now
you shall see the difference. Let me show you my house; you know it was
formerly the hotel of the Prince de Salms, he that was guillotined the
other day; but you know nothing, for you have been out of Paris this
month, I understand. Then I must tell you that my friend Villeneuf has
acquired an immense fortune! by assignats made in the course of a
fortnight. I say an immense fortune! and has bought this fine house. Now
do you begin to understand?"

"I do not clearly know whom you mean by 'your friend Villeneuf,'" said

"The hairdresser who lived in our street," said Manon; "he became a great
patriot, you know, and orator; and, what with his eloquence and his luck
in dealing in assignats, he has made his fortune and mine."

"And yours! then he is your husband?"

"That does not follow--that is not necessary--but do not look so
shocked--everybody goes on the sane way now; besides, I had no other
resource--I must have starved--I could not earn my bread as you do.
Besides, I was too delicate for hard work of any sort--and besides--but
come, let me show you my house--you have no idea how fine it is."

With anxious ostentation Manon displayed all her riches to excite
Victoire's envy.

"Confess, Victoire," said she at last, "that you think me the happiest
person you have ever known.--You do not answer; whom did you ever know
that was happier?"

"Sister Frances, who died last week, appeared to be much happier," said

"The poor nun!" said Manon, disdainfully. "Well, and whom do you think
the next happiest?"

"Madame de Fleury."

"An exile and a beggar!--Oh, you are jesting now, Victoire--or--envious.
With that sanctified face, citoyenne--perhaps I should say
Mademoiselle--Victoire you would be delighted to change places with me
this instant. Come, you shall stay with me a week to try how you like

"Excuse me," said Victoire, firmly; "I cannot stay with you, Manon; you
have chosen one way of life and I another--quite another. I do not
repent my choice--may you never repent yours!--Farewell!"

"Bless me! what airs! and with what dignity she looks! Repent of my
choice!--a likely thing, truly. Am not I at the top of the wheel?"

"And may not the wheel turn?" said Victoire.

"Perhaps it may," said Manon; "but till it does I will enjoy myself.
Since you are of a different humour, return to Madame Feuillot, and
figure upon cambric and muslin, and make out bills, and nurse old nuns
all the days of your life. You will never persuade me, however, that you
would not change places with me if you could. Stay till you are tried,
Mademoiselle Victoire. Who was ever in love with you or your
virtues?--Stay till you are tried."


"But beauty, like the fair Hesperian tree,
Laden with blooming gold, had need the guard
Of dragon watch with unenchanted eye
To save her blossoms, or defend her fruit."--MILTON.

The trial was nearer than either Manon or Victoire expected. Manon had
scarcely pronounced the last words when the ci-devant hairdresser burst
into the room, accompanied by several of his political associates, who
met to consult measures for the good of the nation. Among these patriots
was the Abbe Tracassier.

"Who is that pretty girl who is with you, Manon?" whispered he; "a friend
of yours, I hope?"

Victoire left the room immediately, but not before the profligate abbe
had seen enough to make him wish to see more. The next day he went to
Madame Feuillot's under pretence of buying some embroidered
handkerchiefs; he paid Victoire a profusion of extravagant compliments,
which made no impression upon her innocent heart, and which appeared
ridiculous to her plain good sense. She did not know who he was, nor did
Madame Feuillot; for though she had often heard of the abbe, yet she had
never seen him. Several succeeding days he returned, and addressed
himself to Victoire, each time with increasing freedom. Madame Feuillot,
who had the greatest confidence in her, left her entirely to her own
discretion. Victoire begged her friend Annette to do the business of the
shop, and stayed at work in the back parlour. Tracassier was much
disappointed by her absence; but as he thought no great ceremony
necessary in his proceedings, he made his name known in a haughty manner
to Madame de Feuillot, and desired that he might be admitted into the
back parlour, as he had something of consequence to say to Mademoiselle
Victoire in private. Our readers will not require to have a detailed
account of this _tete-a-tete_; it is sufficient to say that the
disappointed and exasperated abbe left the house muttering imprecations.
The next morning a note came to Victoire apparently from Manon: it was
directed by her, but the inside was written by an unknown hand, and
continued these words:--

"You are a charming, but incomprehensible girl--since you do not like
compliments, you shall not be addressed with empty flattery. It is in
the power of the person who dictates this, not only to make you as rich
and great as your cousin Manon, but also to restore to fortune and to
their country the friends for whom, you are most interested. Their fate
as well as your own is in your power: if you send a favourable answer to
this note, the persons alluded to will, to-morrow, be struck from the
list of emigrants, and reinstated in their former possessions. If your
answer is decidedly unfavourable, the return of your friends to France
will be thenceforward impracticable, and their chateau, as well as their
house in Paris, will be declared national property, and sold without
delay to the highest bidder. To you, who have as much understanding as
beauty, it is unnecessary to say more. Consult your heart, charming
Victoire! be happy, and make others happy. This moment is decisive of
your fate and of theirs, for you have to answer a man of a most decided

Victoire's answer was as follows:--

"My friends would not, I am sure, accept of their fortune, or consent to
return to their country, upon the conditions proposed; therefore I have
no merit in rejecting them."

Victoire had early acquired good principles, and that plain steady good
sense, which goes straight to its object, without being dazzled or
imposed upon by sophistry. She was unacquainted with the refinements of
sentiment, but she distinctly knew right from wrong, and had sufficient
resolution to abide by the right. Perhaps many romantic heroines might
have thought it a generous self-devotion to have become in similar
circumstances the mistress of Tracassier; and those who are skilled "to
make the worst appear the better cause" might have made such an act of
heroism the foundation of an interesting, or at least a fashionable
novel. Poor Victoire had not received an education sufficiently refined
to enable her to understand these mysteries of sentiment. She was even
simple enough to flatter herself that this libertine patriot would not
fulfil his threats, and that these had been made only with a view to
terrify her into compliance. In this opinion, however, she found herself
mistaken. M. Tracassier was indeed a man of the most decided character,
if this form may properly be applied to those who act uniformly in
consequence of their ruling passion. The Chateau de Fleury was seized as
national property. Victoire heard this bad news from the old steward,
who was turned out of the castle, along with his son, the very day after
her rejection of the proposed conditions.

"I could not have believed that any human creature could be so wicked!"
exclaimed Victoire, glowing with indignation: but indignation gave way to

"And the Chateau de Fleury is really seized?--and you, good old man, are
turned out of the place where you were born?--and you too, Basile?--and
Madame de Fleury will never come back again!--and perhaps she may be put
into prison in a foreign country, and may die for want--and I might have
prevented all this!"

Unable to shed a tear, Victoire stood in silent consternation, whilst
Annette explained to the good steward and his son the whole transaction.
Basile, who was naturally of an impetuous temper, was so transported with
indignation, that he would have gone instantly with the note from
Tracassier to denounce him before the whole National Convention, if he
had not been restrained by his more prudent father. The old steward
represented to him, that as the note was neither signed nor written by
the hand of Tracassier, no proof could be brought home to him, and the
attempt to convict one of so powerful a party would only bring certain
destruction upon the accusers. Besides, such was at this time the
general depravity of manners, that numbers would keep the guilty in
countenance. There was no crime which the mask of patriotism could not
cover. "There is one comfort we have in our misfortunes, which these men
can never have," said the old man; "when their downfall comes, and come
it will most certainly, they will not feel as we do, INNOCENT. Victoire,
look up! and do not give way to despair--all will yet be well."

"At all events, you have done what is right--so do not reproach
yourself," said Basile. "Everybody--I mean everybody who is good for
anything--must respect, admire, and love you, Victoire."


"Ne mal cio che v'annoja,
Quello e vero gioire
Che nasce da virtude dopo il soffrire."

Basile had not seen without emotion the various instances of goodness
which Victoire showed during the illness of Sister Frances. Her conduct
towards M. Tracassier increased his esteem and attachment; but he forbore
to declare his affection, because he could not, consistently with
prudence, or with gratitude to his father, think of marrying, now that he
was not able to maintain a wife and family. The honest earnings of many
years of service had been wrested from the old steward at the time the
Chateau de Fleury was seized, and he now depended on the industry of his
son for the daily support of his age. His dependence was just, and not
likely to be disappointed; for he had given his son an education suitable
to his condition in life. Basile was an exact arithmetician, could write
an excellent hand, and was a ready draughtsman and surveyor. To bring
these useful talents into action, and to find employment for them with
men by whom they would be honestly rewarded, was the only difficulty--a
difficulty which Victoire's brother Maurice soon removed. His reputation
as a smith had introduced him, among his many customers, to a gentleman
of worth and scientific knowledge, who was at this time employed to make
models and plans of all the fortified places in Europe; he was in want of
a good clerk and draughtsman, of whose integrity he could be secure.
Maurice mentioned his friend Basile; and upon inquiry into his character,
and upon trial of his abilities, he was found suited to the place, and
was accepted. By his well-earned salary he supported himself and his
father; and began, with the sanguine hopes of a young man, to flatter
himself that he should soon be rich enough to marry, and that then he
might declare his attachment to Victoire. Notwithstanding all his
boasted prudence, he had betrayed sufficient symptoms of his passion to
have rendered a declaration unnecessary to any clear-sighted observer:
but Victoire was not thinking of conquests; she was wholly occupied with
a scheme of earning a certain sum of money for her benefactress, who was
now, as she feared, in want. All Madame de Fleury's former pupils
contributed their share to the common stock; and the mantua-maker, the
confectioner, the servants of different sorts, who had been educated at
her school, had laid by, during the years of her banishment, an annual
portion of their wages and savings: with the sum which Victoire now added
to the fund, it amounted to ten thousand livres. The person who
undertook to carry this money to Madame de Fleury, was Francois, her
former footman, who had procured a pass to go to England as a
hairdresser. The night before he set out was a happy night for Victoire,
as all her companions met, by Madame Feuillot's invitation, at her house;
and after tea they had the pleasure of packing up the little box, in
which each, besides the money, sent some token their gratitude, and some
proof of their ingenuity. They would with all their hearts have sent
twice as many _souvenirs_ as Francois could carry.

"D'abord c'est impossible!" cried he, when he saw the box that was
prepared for him to carry to England: but his good nature was unable to
resist the entreaties of each to have her offering carried, "which would
take up no room."

He departed--arrived safe in England--found out Madame de Fleury, who was
in real distress, in obscure lodgings at Richmond. He delivered the
money, and all the presents of which he had taken charge: but the person
to whom she entrusted a letter, in answer to Victoire, was not so
punctual, or was more unlucky: for the letter never reached her, and she
and her companions were long uncertain whether their little treasure had
been received. They still continued, however, with indefatigable
gratitude, to lay by a portion of their earnings for their benefactress;
and the pleasure they had in this perseverance made them more than amends
for the loss of some little amusements, and for privations to which they
submitted in consequence of their resolution.

In the meantime, Basile, going on steadily with his employments, advanced
every day in the favour of his master, and his salary was increased in
proportion to his abilities and industry; so that he thought he could
now, without any imprudence, marry. He consulted his father, who
approved of his choice; he consulted Maurice as to the probability of his
being accepted by Victoire; and encouraged by both his father and his
friend, he was upon the eve of addressing himself to Victoire, when he
was prevented by a new and unforeseen misfortune. His father was taken
up, by an emissary of Tracassier's, and brought before one of their
revolutionary committees, where he was accused of various acts of
_incivisme_. Among other things equally criminal, it was proved that one
Sunday, when he went to see Le Petit Trianon, then a public-house, he
exclaimed, "C'est ici que le canaille danse, et que les honnetes gens

Basile was present at this mock examination of his father--he saw him on
the point of being dragged to prison--when a hint was given that he might
save his father by enlisting immediately, and going with the army out of
France. Victoire was full in Basile's recollection; but there was no
other means of saving his father. He enlisted, and in twenty-four hours
left Paris.

What appear to be the most unfortunate circumstances of life often prove
ultimately the most advantageous--indeed, those who have knowledge,
activity, and integrity, can convert the apparent blanks in the lottery
of fortune into prizes. Basile was recommended to his commanding officer
by the gentleman who had lately employed him as a clerk; his skill in
drawing plans, and in taking rapid surveys of the country through which
they passed, was extremely useful to his general, and his integrity made
it safe to trust him as a secretary. His commanding officer, though a
brave man, was illiterate, and a secretary was to him a necessary of
life. Basile was not only useful, but agreeable; without any mean arts,
or servile adulation, he pleased by simply showing the desire to oblige
and the ability to serve.

"Diable!" exclaimed the general one day, as he looked at Basile's plan of
a town which the army was besieging. "How comes it that you are able to
do all these things? But you have a genius for this sort of work,

"No, sir," said Basile, "these things were taught to me when I was a
child by a good friend."

"A good friend he was, indeed! he did more for you than if he had given
you a fortune; for, in these times, that might have been soon taken from
you; but now you have the means of making a fortune for yourself."

This observation of the general's, obvious as it may seem, is deserving
of the serious consideration of those who have children of their own to
educate, or who have the disposal of money for public charities. In
these times no sensible person will venture to pronounce that a change of
fortune and station may not await the highest and the lowest; whether we
rise or fall in the scale of society, personal qualities and knowledge
will be valuable. Those who fall cannot be destitute, and those who rise
cannot be ridiculous or contemptible, if they have been prepared for
their fortune by proper education. In shipwreck those who carry their
all in their minds are the most secure.

But to return to Basile. He had sense enough not to make his general
jealous of him by any unseasonable display of his talents, or any
officious intrusion of advice, even upon subjects which he best

The talents of the warrior and the secretary were in such different
lines, that there was no danger of competition; and the general, finding
in his secretary the soul of all the arts, good sense, gradually acquired
the habit of asking his opinion on every subject that came within his
department. It happened that the general received orders from the
Directory at Paris to take a certain town, let it cost what it would,
within a given time: in his perplexity he exclaimed before Basile against
the unreasonableness of these orders, and declared his belief that it was
impossible he should succeed, and that this was only a scheme of his
enemies to prepare his ruin. Basile had attended to the operations of
the engineer who acted under the general, and perfectly recollected the
model of the mines of this town, which he had seen when he was employed
as draughtsman by his Parisian friend. He remembered that there was
formerly an old mine that had been stopped up somewhere near the place
where the engineer was at work; he mentioned in private his suspicions to
the general, who gave orders in consequence. The old mine was
discovered, cleared out, and by these means the town was taken the day
before the time appointed. Basile did not arrogate to himself any of the
glory of this success; he kept his general's secret and his confidence.
Upon their return to Paris, after a fortunate campaign, the general was
more grateful than some others have been, perhaps because more room was
given by Basile's prudence for the exercise of this virtue.

"My friend," said he to Basile, "you have done me a great service by your
counsel, and a greater still by holding your tongue. Speak now, and tell
me freely if there is anything I can do for you. You see, as a
victorious general, I have the upper hand amongst these
fellows--Tracassier's scheme to ruin me missed--whatever I ask will at
this moment be granted; speak freely, therefore."

Basile asked what he knew Victoire most desired--that Monsieur and Madame
de Fleury should be struck from the list of emigrants, and that their
property now in the hands of the nation should be restored to them. The
general promised that this should be done. A warm contest ensued upon
the subject between him and Tracassier, but the general stood firm; and
Tracassier, enraged, forgot his usual cunning, and quarrelling
irrevocably with a party now more powerful than his own, he and his
adherents were driven from that station in which they had so long
tyrannised. From being the rulers of France, they in a few hours became
banished men, or, in the phrase of the times, _des deportes_.

We must not omit to mention the wretched end of Manon. The man with whom
she lived perished by the guillotine. From his splendid house she went
upon the stage, did not succeed, sank from one degree of profligacy to
another, and at last died in an hospital.

In the meantime, the order for the restoration of the Fleury property,
and for permission for the Fleury family to return to France, was made
out in due form, and Maurice begged to be the messenger of these good
tidings--he set out for England with the order.

Victoire immediately went down to the Chateau de Fleury, to get
everything in readiness for the reception of the family.

Exiles are expeditious in their return to their native country. Victoire
had but just time to complete her preparations, when Monsieur and Madame
de Fleury arrived at Calais. Victoire had assembled all her companions,
all Madame de Fleury's former pupils; and the hour when she was expected
home, they, with the peasants of the neighbourhood, were all in their
holiday clothes, and, according to the custom of the country, singing and
dancing. Without music and dancing there is no perfect joy in France.
Never was _fete du village_ or _fete du Seigneur_ more joyful than this.

The old steward opened the gate, the carriage drove in. Madame de Fleury
saw that home which she had little expected evermore to behold, but all
other thoughts were lost in the pleasure of meeting her beloved pupils.

"My children!" cried she, as they crowded round her the moment she got
out of her carriage--"my dear, _good_ children!"

It was all she could say. She leaned on Victoire's arm as she went into
the house, and by degrees recovering from the almost painful excess of
pleasure, began to enjoy what she yet only confusedly felt.

Several of her pupils were so much grown and altered in their external
appearance, that she could scarcely recollect them till they spoke, and
then their voices and the expression of their countenances brought their
childhood fully to her memory. Victoire, she thought, was changed the
least, and at this she rejoiced.

The feeling and intelligent reader will imagine all the pleasure that
Madame de Fleury enjoyed this day; nor was it merely the pleasure of a
day. She heard from all her friends, with prolonged satisfaction,
repeated accounts of the good conduct of these young people during her
absence. She learned with delight how her restoration to her country and
her fortune had been effected; and is it necessary to add, that Victoire
consented to marry Basile, and that she was suitably portioned, and, what
is better still, that she was perfectly happy? Monsieur de Fleury
rewarded the attachment and good conduct of Maurice by taking him into
his service, and making him his manager under the old steward at the
Chateau de Fleury.

On Victoire's wedding-day Madame de Fleury produced all the little
offerings of gratitude which she had received from her and her companions
during her exile. It was now her turn to confer favours, and she knew
how to confer them both with grace and judgment.

"No gratitude in human nature! No gratitude in the lower classes of the
people!" cried she; "how much those are mistaken who think so! I wish
they could know my history, and the history of these my children, and
they would acknowledge their error."


{1} "Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first deprive of

* Maria Edgeworth *