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my legs and breast, and broke the eggs; it was this that betrayed me. The Prefect had not seen me on the elm ; I could have concealed from him that my hands were bleeding, but there was no possibility of hiding the bright golden colour with which I was besmeared. “Come along, Sir,” exclaimed he, “you must be caned.”
Had he announced to me, that he would commute this punishment into a sentence of death, I should have felt a sensation of joy. I had never experienced such an ignominy throughout my wild education. At any period of my life, I should have preferred any punishment to the horror of being put to the blush before a fellow mortal. My breast heaved with indignation. I replied to the Abbé, in the tone of a man and not of a child, “ that neither he nor any other person should ever dare to raise his hand against me.
This answer provoked him; he called me a rebel, and promised to make an example of me. “ We shall see,” I replied, and began to play at ball with a sang-froid which confounded him.
We returned to the college; the Abbé made me enter his apartment, and ordered me to submit. My lofty bearing gave place to a torrent of tears. I represented to the Abbé that he had taught me Latin ; that I was his pupil, his disciple, his child; that surely he could not dishonour his child, and render the sight of my companions insupportable to me; that he might put me in prison and feed me upon bread and water, deprive me of recreation, load me with “
pensums ;" that I should be grateful for his clemency, and love him all the better. I fell at his feet, clasped my hands, and besought him, in the name of Jesus-Christ, to spare me; but he was inexorable to my prayers and entreaties. I rose in a rage, and gave him such a violent kick on his shins, that he uttered a cry and ran limping to the door, which he double-locked and returned. I intrenched myself behind his bed. He struck at me with his ferula across it. I wrapped the quilt around me, and animating myself to the combat, cried out:
“ Macte animo, generose puer !". This piece of boyish erudition made my opponent laugh in
spite of himself. He proposed an armistice : we concluded a
year, were very triste. The Abbé Leprince accompanied me to Combourg. I never went out except with my preceptor: and we took long walks together without aim or object. He was dying of consumption, and was silent and melancholy : and, as for me, I was scarcely more gay than he was. We would walk for whole hours behind one another without speaking a word. One day we lost our way in the wood. M. Leprince turned to me and said :
“Which road must we take?” I replied, without hesitation, “ The sun is setting ; at this time it always shines on the window of the great tower; let us go in that direction.” In the evening, M. Leprince related this incident to my father, who saw the future traveller in this evidence of intelligence. Often, when I have seen the sun set in the forests of America, I have called to mind the woods of Combourg ; my recollections echo each other.
The Abbé Leprince wished my father to give me a horse ; but, in his opinion, it was not necessary that a naval officer should understand the management of anything except his ship. I was reduced to ride one of the large carriage-horses, an immense piebald. This piebald was not, like that of Turenne, one of that species named by the Romans “ Desultorios equos,” and trained to aid their master ; but a mad Pegasus, who was quite unmanageable at a trot, and almost broke my legs when I obliged him to leap the ditches. I have never cared much for horses, although I have led the life of
a Tartar ; and, in opposition to the effect which my education, in this respect, might naturally have been expected to produce, I sit on horseback with more grace than security.
The tertian ague, of which I had contracted the germs in the marshes of Dol, relieved me of the company of M. Leprince. A man who sold “infallible remedies” was passing through the village. My father, who had no opinion of physicians, had great faith in charlatans. He sent in search of the quack, who declared he could cure me in four-and-twenty hours. Next morning he returned, dressed in a green coat, laced with gold, a large powdered wig, wide, dirty muslin ruffles, false diamond rings, old black satin breeches, bluish-white silk stockings, and shoes with enormous buckles.
He drew back the curtains of my bed, felt my pulse, told me to put out my tongue, uttered some gibberish, with an Italian accent, on the necessity of drugging me, and then made me swallow a piece of sugared stuff. This met with my father's approval, for he stoutly maintained that all maladies proceeded from indigestion, and that every description of physical suffering might be driven away by clearing a man of everything except his blood.
Half an hour after I had swallowed the drug, I was seized with the most alarming vomitings. M. de Chateaubriand, on being informed of this, was ready to throw the poor devil out of the turret-window. The quack, in his terror, threw off his coat, tucked up his shirt sleeves, and made the most ridiculous gesticulations. At every movement, his wig turned round in every direction; he re-echoed my cries, and exclaimed : “ Che ? Monsou Lavandier.” This M. Lavandier was the village apothecary, who had been called in to render assistance. In the midst of my agonies, I knew not whether I should die from the drugs of the charlatan, or the fits of laughter into which his absurdities threw me.
The effects of this violent emetic were happily arrested, and I was again set upon my legs.
Life is spent in hovering round our tomb. Our various sicknesses are but the winds which carry us more or less near to the haven. The first death which I witnessed was that of a
canon of St. Malo. He lay expiring on his bed, his countenance distorted by the last convulsions. Death is our friend, nevertheless we do not recognise it as such, because it presents itself to us under a mask, and that mask inspires us with terror.
I was sent back to college at the close of autumn.
Vallée-aux-Loups, December, 1813,
INVASION OF FRANCE-GAMES THE ABBE CHATEAUBRIAND.
From Dieppe, where the injunctions of the police had compelled me to take refuge, I was permitted to return to the Vallée-aux-Loups, from which place I now continue my narrative.
The ground trembles beneath the tread of the foreign soldier, who is at this moment invading my native country. Like the last of the Romans, I am writing amid the noise of invading barbarians. By day I trace pages* as agitated as the events of that day ; and at night, when the sound of the distant cannon has died away in the woods, I return to the silence of those years which sleep in the tomb, to the peace of my youthful souvenirs. How circumscribed and brief is the past of our existence, compared with the vastness of the present, and the importance of the future !
Mathematics, Greek, and Latin occupied me at college the whole of the winter. The time that was not consecrated to study, was devoted to those games of early life, which are the same in all countries. The young Englishman, the young German, the young Italian, the young Spaniard, the young American, the young Bedouin,-alike trundle the hoop and throw the ball. All brothers of one large family, children do not lose their traits of resemblance till they lose their innocence, and this rule obtains everywhere. However, diver
* Bonaparte and the Bourbons. (Note at Genoa, 1831.)
sities arise in nations, because the passions are modified by climate, government, and manners, the members of the human race cease to understand each other and to speak the same language : society is the true tower of Babel.
One morning I formed one of a party that was playing at prisoners base with very much animation in the great court of the College, when a message was brought that I was wanted. I immediately followed the servant to the outer gate. I here found a tall, florid man, of brusque and impatient manner, and a gruff voice, with a stick in his hand. He wore a black, untidy wig, a cassock torn and tucked in at the pockets, dusty shoes, and stockings out at heel: “Young polisson,” said he, “are you not the Chevalier de Chateaubriand de Combourg ?”
“Yes, Sir," replied I, perfectly astonished at his interrogation.
“ And I,” exclaimed he, much excited, “I am the last senior of your family, I am the Abbé de Chateaubriand de la Guérande ; look at me well.” The haughty Abbé thrust his hand into the pocket of his ancient shag breeches, took out a dirty crown piece of six francs, wrapped in a greasy piece of paper, flung it at my head, and continued his journey on foot, grunting his matins, with a ferocious mien. I afterwards learned that the Prince de Condé had offered this rustic vicar the preceptorate of the Duke de Bourbon.
The arrogant priest replied, that the “ Prince, possessor of the Barony of Chateaubriand, ought to know that the heirs of that Barony might have preceptors, but were not the preceptors of any person.” This hauteur is a family failing. In my father it was perfectly odious; my brother carried it to a ridiculous extreme, and his eldest son is somewhat tainted with it. I am not sure, whether, in spite of my republican opinions, I myself am altogether exempt from it. However, I most studiously conceal it.