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I love to recall this happiness, which briefly preceded in my soul the tribulations of the world. Compare its joys with the transport which I have depicted ; see the same heart experience in the space of two or three years all that is lovely and salutary in innocence and religion, and all that is seductive and melancholy in passion; choose between these two joys; you will see on which side you must seek for happiness, and, above all,
repose. Three weeks after my first communion, I quitted the College of Dol. Even now I retain a pleasant recollection of that institution. Childhood itself lends a charm to the places which it has embellished, as a flower imparts its perfume to the objects which it has touched. I linger yet, in thought, on the dispersion of my first comrades, and of my first preceptors. The Abbé Leprince, who was appointed to a benefice near Rouen, died soon after. The Abbé Egault obtained a cure in the diocese of Rennes ; and I witnessed the death of the excellent Principal, Abbé Porcher, at the beginning of the Revolution. He was a learned man, gentle and simple-hearted. The memory of this obscure Rollin will always be cherished and venerated by me.
Vallée-aux-Loups, close of December, 1813.
COMBOURG-COLLEGE OF RENNES-MEETING WITH GESRIL-MOREAU,
LIMOELAN-MARRIAGE OF MY THIRD SISTER.
At Combourg, I found that which nourished my piety-a mission, in which I followed up my religious duties. I received confirmation on the perron of the castle, with the peasant boys and girls, at the hand of the Bishop of St. Malo. After this, a crucifix was erected, and I assisted in holding it, while it was being fixed on its base. It still exists : it rises before the tower in which my father died. For thirty years it has not seen a human face at the window of that tower. It is no longer saluted by the children of the château ; every spring it
waits for them in vain : it sees only the returning nightingale, companion of my childish days, more faithful to its nest than man to his home. Happy, if my life had glided away at the foot of this crucifix, if my hair had been blanched by the days which clothed with verdant moss this venerated crucifix !
I soon set out for Rennes; there I was to continue my studies, and finish
of subsequently undergoing an examination in order to become a naval cadet at Brest.
M. de Fayolle was Principal of the College of Rennes. This “Tuilly” of Bretagne boasted of three distinguished professors, the Abbé de Chateaugiron for the second ; the Abbé Germé for rhetoric; the Abbé Marchand for philosophy. There was a great number of students, both boarders and day scholars, and the classes were full. In later times, Geoffroy and Ginguené of this college would have done honour to St. Barbe and Plessis. The Chevalier de Parny had also studied at Rennes; I occupied his bed in the chamber that was assigned to me.
Rennes seemed to me a complete Babylon, and the College a world.
The number of masters and scholars, the extent of the buildings, gardens, and court-yards appeared to me boundless ; gradually, however, I got accustomed to all. On the birthday of the Principal, we always had a holiday, and sang with all our might some splendid verses of our own composition in his praise, or we used to say:
"O Terpsichore ! 0 Polymnie !
I acquired the same ascendancy over my new comrades, which I had formerly had over my schoolfellows at Dol; but it cost me a good many blows. The youngsters of Bretagne have a very peevish temper. Hence we used constantly to send each other a challenge on walking days, appointing a meeting in the woods of the Benedictine gardens, called the Tabor ; we fastened our mathematical compasses to the end of a stick, or we engaged in single combat-more or less rude or courteous, according to the nature of the challenge. Umpires were appointed who decided which should throw the gage, and in what manner the champions should take the lead. The combat did not cease till one of the parties declared himself vanquished. I found my friend Gesril at this college, and, as at St. Malo, he presided at these engagements. He was my second in an affair which I had with St. Riveul, a young gentleman, who became the first victim of the revolution. I fell under my adversary, refused to surrender, and my pride cost me dear. I said like Jean Desmarest when going to the scaffold : “I cry for mercy to none but God.”
At this college I met two men, who afterwards became celebrated for very different causes : Moreau, the General, and Limoëlan, the inventor of the Infernal Machine, now a Priest in America. There is only one portrait in existence of Lucile, and this wretched miniature was done by Limoëlan, who became an artist during the revolutionary distresses. Moreau was a day scholar, Limoëlan a boarder. It is rare to find at the same time, in the same province, in the same little town, under the roof of the same college such remarkable destinies.
I cannot help here relating a trick which my companion Limoëlan played off upon the Prefect of the week.
The Prefect was accustomed to make his rounds in the corridors, after we had retired, to see if all were right, and used to look in at a hole which had been made in each door for this purpose. Limoëlan, Gesril, St. Riveul and I slept in the same dormitory :
“D'animaux malfaisans c'était un fort bon plat.”
We had in vain stopped up the hole with a piece of paper several times ; the Prefect pushed aside the paper, and found us dancing about on our beds and breaking the chairs.
One evening, Limoëlan, without telling us of his project, prevailed upon us all to get into bed, and then put out the light. Very soon we heard him get up, go to the door, and then creep into bed again. About a quarter of an hour after, We heard the Prefect walking along the passage upon tiptoe ; just as if he had some cause for suspecting us ; he stood still at the door, listened, peeped in, and not perceiving any light **.
“Who in the world has done that ?” cried he, rushing into the chamber. Limoëlan was stifled with laughter, and Gesril speaking through his nose, said in a half silly and half bantering tone: “What's the matter, M. le Prefet ?” As for St. Riveul and me—we laughed till we were half choaked, and hid ourselves under the cover.
The Prefect could not get anything out of us; we were quite heroic. All four were accordingly consigned to prison in the cellar ; here St. Riveul scooped out the earth under a door which communicated with the lower court; he contrived to get his head jammed into this opening, when a hog ran up to him and attacked his head; Gesril glided into the college wine-cellar, and set a cask of wine running. Limoëlan demolished a wall, and as for me, a second Perrin Dandin, scrambling about in an air-hole, I collected a crowd of canaille in the street by my eloquent harangues. The terrible inventor of the Infernal Machine playing off this polisson trick upon the Prefect of a college-calls to mind young Cromwell, scratching with ink the face of another regicide, who signed, next to him, the sentence for the execution of Charles I.
Although the education which we received at the College of Rennes was very religious, my fervour relaxed: the great number of my tutors and schoolfellows were so many causes of distraction to me. I made considerable progress in the study of languages, and was a proficient in mathematics, for which I had always had a decided turn. I should have made a capital officer of the marine, or of engineers. I had a natural aptitude for everything. I was equally alive to the grave and the gay. I commenced with poetry before I got into prose; the arts were my delight, and I was passionately fond of music and architecture. Though very liable to get tired of anything, I was capable of the most minute details, being endowed with patience, which was proof against every obstacle; though fatigued with the object with which I was occupied, my perseverance was greater than my repugnance. I have never given up anything which was worth the trouble of finishing, and there
are some things which I have persevered in for fifteen and twenty years of my life, with as much ardour on the last day as the on first.
This aptitude was also manifested in minor things. I was quick at chess, adroit at billiards, hunting, military exercises, and was a tolerable draughtsman. I should have been a very good singer if my voice had been cultivated. All this, added to the tone of my education, and the life of a soldier and traveller, prevented my feeling anything like pedantry, or of assuming the dogged, self-satisfied air, the awkwardness and slovenly habits of other men of letters; far less the haughtiness and assurance, envy and vain-glorious conceit of modern authors.
I passed two years at the College of Rennes : Gesril quitted it eighteen months before me, and entered the navy. .
Julie, my third sister, was married in the course of this time. She was united to the Count de Farcy, Captain in the regiment of Condé, and settled with her husband at Fougères, where my two elder sisters, Mesdames de Marignay and de Québriac already resided. The marriage of Julie took place at Combourg, and I was present at the wedding. I there met the Countess de Tronjoli, who afterwards distinguished herself so greatly by her intrepidity upon the scaffold : she was the cousin and intimate friend of the Marquis de La Rouërie, and was implicated in his conspiracy. I had never before seen beauty except in my own family, and was confounded now to perceive it in the countenance of a stranger. Every. stage of my life opened a new perspective before me. I heard from afar the seducing voice of the passions, which were about to overcome me, and I fung myself at the foot of these syrens, attracted by an unknown harmony. It turned out that, like the chief priest of Eleusis, I had different incense for each divinity. But the hymns which I sang, while burning this incense, could they be called balmy, like the poesy of the hierophant ?