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things. The rest appear to have arisen from games, or pastimes.
My father had revived some of the latter privileges for the purpose of avoiding prescription. When all the family were assembled, we took part in these gothic amusements: the three principal of which were the “Saut de Poissonniers," “La Quintaine," and a fair called “L'Angevine.” The peasants, in their wooden shoes, men of a France which no longer exists, looked on, as spectators, upon the games of a France which no longer exist. There were prizes for the conqueror, and fines for the vanquished.
“ La Quintaine” kept up the tradition of the Tourneys ; and undoubtedly had reference to the ancient military service of the fiefs. It is extremely well described in Du Cange (voce Quintana). The fines were obliged to be paid in ancient copper coins, to the value of two moutons d'or à la couronne de 25 sols parisis each.
The fair called “L'Angevine,” was annually held in the meadow with the pond, on the 4th of September, the anniversary of my birth. The vassals were obliged to take arms and come to the château to hoist their Lord's banner; from thence they repaired to the fair to keep order, and to enforce the payment of a mulct due to the Lords of Combourg for every head of cattle : a species of regal law. At these times, my father kept open table, and dancing was continued for three days; the gentry in the Grand Hall, to the scraping of a violin, and the peasantry on the lawn, to the squeaking of a bagpipe. Singing, huzzaing, and firing arquebusses were the order of the day. These noises were mingled with the lowing of the cattle at the fair ; the buzz of the crowd that moved backwards and forwards in the gardens and woods : thus once in the year, at any rate, something like joy was seen at Combourg
Hence I was so singularly placed in life, as to have been present at the “La Quintaine," and at the proclamation of the rights of man; to have seen the Burgher Militia of a village of Bretagne and the National Guard of France ; the banners of the Lords of Combourg, and the standard of the Revolution. I am, as it were, the last witness of these feudal
The visitors who were received at the château, were composed of the inhabitants of the borough and the noblesse of the district. These good people were my first friends. Our vanity assigns too much importance to the part which we play in the world. The burgher of Paris laughs at the burgher of a little town. The Court noble scorns the noble of a province; the man of renown disdains the man who is without fame, forgetting that time will do equal justice to their pretensions, and, that all are equally ridiculous or indifferent in the eyes of the generation which succeeds them.
The chief inhabitant of the place was a M. Potelet, an old Captain of an East Indiaman, who repeated over and over again some long and wondrous tales of Pondicherry. As he was relating them, with his elbows resting upon the table, my father always seemed inclined to throw his plate in the face of the prolix narrator. The next personage was a great tobacco merchant, M. Launay de La Billardière, the father of a family, which, like that of Jacob, consisted of twelve children, nine daughters and three sons, the youngest of whom, David was my playfellow.* This good man resolved to be a noble in 1789; he chose his time well! In this house there was much forced joy and heavy debt. The Seneschal, Gebert, the fiscal procurator, Petit, the receiver Corvaisier, and the chaplain, the Abbé Charmel, constituted the society of Combourg. Not even at Athens have I met more celebrated personages !
! M. de Petit-Bois, M. de Château-d'Assie, M. de Tinteniac, and one or two other gentlemen used to come on Sundays to hear mass, at the Parish Church, and afterwards to dine with the Lord of the Manor. We were very intimate with the family of Trémaudan, which consisted of the husband and his extremely pretty wife, a natural sister and several children. They lived at a farm, whose only indication of nobility was a pigeon-house! The Trémaudans are still living. Wiser and happier than I, they have not lost sight of the towers of the Castle which I quitted thirty years since. They do now what they did when I used to go and eat brown bread at their table. They have not left the port which I shall never more enter. Perhaps they may be speaking of me, at the very moment that I am writing this page. I reproach myself for drawing their name from that obscurity which is their safeguard. They doubted for a long time, whether the man of whom they had heard so much was the “ Petit Chevalier.” The rector or curate of Combourg, also the Abbé Sévin, the same whom I used to hear holding forth every Sunday, manifested the like credulity, and could not persuade himself that the “polisson," the companion of peasant boys, could be the defender of religion. In the end, however, he believed it, and even quoted me in his sermons, after having dandled me upon his knee. These worthy people, who so naturally present themselves to my mind, who saw me such as I was in my infancy and youth, would they know me now, after all the changes which time has made ? I should be obliged to tell them my name, before they would press me in their arms.
* I have again met my friend, David. I will afterwards relate how and when. (Note at Geneva, 1832).
I bring misfortune to my friends. A gamekeeper, called Raulx, who was attached to me, was killed by a poacher. This murder made an extraordinary impression on me. How strange a mystery is the sacrifice of human life! Why is it that it is the greatest crime and the greatest glory, to shed the blood of man? My imagination pictures to me my faithful Raulx holding his intestines in his hands, and dragging himself along to a little cottage where he died. I conceived the idea of vengeance, and resolved to punish the assassin. In this respect, I am singularly constituted. At first, I scarcely feel an offence; but it fastens itself upon my memory; the remembrance of it, instead of decreasing, augments with time. It sleeps in my heart for months, for years, perhaps, but it suddenly re-awakens at some trivial circumstances with renewed force, and my wound bleeds more severely than when it was first inflicted. But if I do not forgive my enemies, at all events, I never harm them. I am rancorous, but not vindictive. If I have the power to revenge myself, I lose the desire ; I should not be dangerous except in misfortune. Those who thought to make me succumb by depressing me, deceived themselves. Adversity is for me what the earth was for Antæa. I re-gather strength in the bosom of my mother. If happiness had ever taken me from her arms, it would have
Dieppe, Oct. 1812.
SECOND VACATION AT COMBOURG-THE CONTI REGIMENT-CAMP AT
ST. MALO-AN ABBEY-THE THEATRE-MARRIAGE OF MY TWO
I RETURNED to Dol, much to my regret. The following year the project of a descent upon Guernsey was entertained, and a considerable force encamped in the neighbourhood of St. Malo. Troops were quartered at Combourg. M. de Chateaubriand, from a sense of courtesy, offered an asylum, in his house, to the Colonels of the regiments of Touraine and Conti; one of these was the Duke de St Simon, the other the Marquis de Causans.* Every day twenty of the officers were invited to dine at my father's table. The jocularity of these strangers annoyed me. The walks which they took in the neighbourhood disturbed the peace of my favourite woods. The sight of the Marquis d'Wignacourt galloping under the trees, first suggested to my fancy images of travelling.
When I heard our guests talk of Paris and of the Court, I felt oppressed with a strange sadness. I began to form conjectures as to what society might be. · These were distant and confused, and left me bewildered and disturbed. Like one who surveys the earth from some lofty tower, whose summit seems to touch the clouds, is seized with dizziness, so did I feel while glancing at the world from the tranquil regions of youthful innocence.
* Since the Revolution, I have had the sincere pleasure of again meeting with this gallant officer, distinguished for his loyalty and Christian virtues. (Note at Geneva, 1831.)
One thing, however, charmed me; this was the parade. Every day the regiment mounted guard, and defiled at the foot of the flight of steps in the “Cour Verte,” to the sound of the drum and other military music. The Marquis de Causans offered to show me the camp from the coast, to which my father gave
his consent. M. de Morandais, a man of good family, who had been reduced, by loss of fortune, to undertake the management of the Combourg estates, accordingly took charge of me to St. Malo. He wore a coat of green camlet, with a small silver collar round the throat, and a cap of grey felt, with a peak in front, was drawn over his ears. He placed me behind him, on the
croup of his mare, Isabella. I held by the belt, which he wore over his coat, and to which his hunting-knife was attached. I was enchanted. When Claude de Bullion, and the father of the President de Lamoignon went, as children, into the country, “they were placed in baskets, suspended on either side of an ass, and as Lamoignon was lighter than his companion, a loaf of bread was placed in his pannier
to preserve the balance."'*
M. de Morandais took a cross-road, and cheerily did we make our way through wood and river, till we came to an Abbey belonging to the Benedictines. As the number of monks who inhabited it had greatly decreased, they had just been removed to a head-community of their order, and we found only the Father Procurator, who was left in charge of the disposal of the furniture, and the removal of the fuel. He, however, provided us with an excellent dinner of its kind : it was served up in the room which had been the library of the Prior, and we regaled ourselves with an abundance of fresh eggs, and pike and carp of an enormous size. Beyond the arch of a cloister, I perceived some large sycamores, bordering a piece of water : the woodman's axe struck the venerable trees at the root, their leafy summits trembled in the air, and they fell,
* Memoirs of the President de Lamoignon.