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meandered with their banners and their crosses in the midst of the crowd, the boats coming to the shore, either sailing or rowing; the vessels entering the port, or lying at anchor ; the salutes of artillery,_all contributed to infuse into these meetings bustle, life, and variety.
was the only witness of these fêtes who shared not in their joy. I appeared there without money in my pocket for purchasing either toys or cakes. Shunning the disdain which is attached to poverty, I seated myself far from the crowd, amid the surf which the sea forms in the hollows of the rocks. There I amused myself in watching the flights of the penguins and sea-gulls, in gazing on the far blue distance, in picking up cockle-shells, and listening to the refrain of the waves among the rocks. In the evening, when at home, I was scarcely more happy : I had a repugnance to certain food, which I was forced to eat, and I was wont to cast my imploring eyes upon La France, who adroitly carried off my plate when my father turned his head another way: another grievance was, that I was never permitted to approach the fire-place. Very different were my severe parents to those who, in these days, spoil their children.
But, if I had sorrows which are unknown to the rising generation, I had also pleasures of which they are ignorant.
We no longer know anything of those religious and family solemnities, where the whole of the country seemed to rejoice with their God; Christmas, New Year's Day, the Epiphany, Easter, Whitsuntide, and St. John's Day; these were days of joy and happiness to me. It may be that the influence of my native rock acted upon my feelings and pursuits. From the year 1015, the Maloese had made a vow that they would
go and assist in erecting, with their own hands and by their own means, the belfry of the Cathedral of Chartres : have not I also thus laboured with my hands to rebuild the fallen spire of the ancient Christian Church? says Father Maunoir, “has never shone upon a canton, where there has appeared a more constant and invariable fidelity to the true faith than in Bretagne. For thirteen centuries, no
“ The sun,”
infidelity has stained the language which has served as the organ for preaching Jesus Christ, and he is yet to be born who shall hear in Bretagne the preaching of another religion than the Catholic, in the language of Bretagne."
During those fête days to which I have alluded, I was taken with my sisters to make a short stay at the different sanctuaries in the city, to the Chapel of St. Aaron, to the Convent de la Victoire; my ear was struck with the soft voices of females, who were invisible; the harmony of their songs mingled with the murmur of the waves. In the winter, at the Christmas festival, when the cathedral was filled by crowds, the old sailors on their knees, the young women and children reading in their missals, holding little lighted tapers in their hands, the multitude at the moment of the blessing, repeating in chorus the Tantum ergo; when, during the interval of the chants, the bleak wind beat against the windows of the church, shaking the vaults of that nave where once the manly voices of Jacques Cartier and of DuguayTrouin had ascended, I was overpowered by an extraordinary feeling of religion. I had no need to be told by Villeneuve to fold my hands and to call upon God by all the names which my mother had taught me; I saw the heavens opened and the angels offering our incense and our vows; I bowed my head, it was no longer depressed with that overwhelming weariness which almost tempts us never more to raise it after it has once been bowed at the foot of the altar.
One sailor, on quitting these pomps, embarks in his vessel fortified against every trial, while another, coming into port, directs his steps to the illuminated dome of the church; thus religion and peril were continually present, and their images manifested themselves inseparably to my mind. Scarcely was I born when I heard of death: that evening a man with a bell in his hand walked from street to street, calling upon Christians to offer
for one of their deceased brethren. Almost every year vessels were lost in my very sight ; and, as I played on the shore, the sea dashed at my feet the dead bodies of men who had died far from their homes. Madame de Chateaubriand said to me, as the holy Monica sa id to her son : Nihil longe est a Deo, Nothing is far from God. My education had been confided to Providence, and it did not fail to furnish me with lessons.
up their prayers
Dedicated to the Virgin, I knew and loved my protectress, whom I confounded with my guardian angel. Her image which had cost my good Villeneuve half a sou, was attached with four pins to the head of my bed. I ought to have lived in those days when they were wont to say to the Virgin : Doulce Dame du Ciel et de la terre, Mère de pitié, fontaine de tous biens, qui portastes Jésus-Christ en vos pretieulx flancz, belle très doulce Dame je vous mercye et vous prye.
The first thing which I learned by heart was a Mariner's Song, commencing thus :
“ Je mets ma confiance,
De la plus sainte mort." I have since heard these lines sung during a shipwreck. I repeat them to this very day with as much delight as I do the verses of Homer; a Madonna encircled with a gothic crown, veiled in a robe of blue silk, with a silver fringe, inspires me with more devotion than a Virgin of Raphael.
This peaceful star of the ocean might have calmed the troubles of my life ; but I was destined to be agitated even in my infancy, like the date-tree of the Arab; scarcely had the tender blade sprung out of the rock, than it was beaten down by the winds.
La Vallée-aux-Loups, June, 1812.
GESRIL-HERVINE MAGON-FIGHT WITH TWO SAILOR BOYS.
I HAVE already said that my premature revolt against the bonnes who ruled Lucile, was the commencement of my disgrace; it was completed by one of my companions.
My uncle, M. de Chateaubriand du Plessis, who, like his brother, was settled at St Malo, had, like him, four daughters and two sons. My two cousins, Pierre and Armand, at first constituted all my society, but Pierre was appointed page to the Queen, and Armand, being destined for the ecclesiastical state, was sent to college. Pierre, on quitting the Queen's service, entered the navy, and was drowned on the coast of Africa. Armand, after having been shut up for many years at college, left France in 1790, served throughout the whole of the emigration, undauntedly made five voyages in a sloop to the coast of Bretagne, and afterwards died for his King on the plains of Grenelle, on Good Friday, 1810. I have already mentioned this, and shall again have occasion to revert to it when recounting his untimely fate.*
Being thus deprived of the society of my two cousins, I endeavoured to fill up the void by a new acquantance.
A gentleman named Gesril, lived on the second floor of the hotel which we inhabited; he had one son and two daughters. The education of this son was diametrically opposite to mine. He was a thoroughly spoiled child, and everything that he did was thought charming. His great delight was fighting, and especially exciting quarrels, of which he constituted himself umpire. He was constantly playing
* Armand left an only son, named Frederic, whom I first placed in the service of Monsieur, and who afterwards entered a regiment of Cuirassiers. He was married at Nancy to Mademoiselle de Gastaldi, by whom he had two sons; he has now retired from service. The eldest sister of my cousin Armand has for many years been the superior of the Convent of La Trappe. (Note of 1831. Geneva.)
pranks upon the bonnes when they walked out with the children; the main subject of their gossip was his frolics which they magnified into deadly crimes. His father merely laughed at these pranks, and Joson Gesril was not a whit the less beloved. He soon became my most intimate friend, and exercised unbounded sway over me.
I made great progress under such a master, although my character was entirely opposite to his. I was fond of solitary sports, and never sought a quarrel with any one, whereas Gesril was mad after pleasure and clamour, and childish squabbles were the joy of his heart. If any of the young polissons came up to speak to me, Gesril would exclaim, “ Do you permit that ?" At these words, I thought my honour compromised, and I would fly at the head of the audacious intruder. Age or height was nothing to
My friend would look on and applaud my courage, but he never came to my assistance. Sometimes, he would raise an army of all the young idlers whom we met, and then, dividing his conscripts into two bands, we commenced a regular skirmish with volleys of stones on the beach. Another
game invented by Gesril was of a more dangerous nature. When the sea ran high, and there was a storm, the waves lashed the foundations of the ancient château, rushed upon the shore, and dashed even as high as the large towers. About twenty feet above the elevation of the base of these towers was a parapet of granite, straight, slippery, and sloping, which communicated with the ravelin that defended the moat : the point to be accomplished was to seize the instant between the two waves, and clear the perilous slope before the wave could break and cover the tower. Behold a mountain of water, rapidly advancing with a roaring voice,—if you delay one single moment, the monster will either engulph you, or dash you against the wall! Not one of us ever refused this hazardous feat, but I have seen many a boy turn pale before he attempted it.
This penchant of Gesril to thrust others into dangerous adventures, while he remained an idle spectator, induced the impression that he did not, on the whole, display a very generous character.
It was he, nevertheless, who, on a very