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the sceptre of such a long race of kings, were, before being bound by the executioner, to be employed in mending the rags of the widow, a prisoner in the Conciergerie !
If my brother obtained from me a sacrifice, it was not in his power to push his advantage further. He entreated me in vain to remain at Versailles, in order to be present in the evening at the Queen's party. “ You will be presented to the Queen,” said he, “and the King will speak to you.” He could not have given me a better reason for hastening my departure, I hurried away to conceal my glory in my furnished lodgings, happy at having escaped from the court, but still seeing before me the terrible line of carriages of the 19th of February, 1787.
The Duc de Coigny sent to let me know that I was to go out hunting with the King in the forest of St. Germain. I set out early in the morning towards my punishment, in the uniform of a débutant—a grey coat, red waistcoat and small clothes, jockey boots, a hanger by my side, and a little French hat with a gold lace band. There were four of us new comers at the Palace of Versailles ; the two Messrs. de St. Marsault, Count d'Hautefeuille and myself.* The Duke de Coigny gave us our instructions ; he warned us not to cross the scent, the King being angry when any one passed between him and the game. The Duc de Coigny bore a name fatal to the Queen. The place of meeting was at Val, in the forest of St. Germain, a domain pledged by the Crown to Marshal de Beauveau. Custom required, that those presented at court should, on their first hunting excursion, be supplied with horses from the King's stables.
* I have again met with the Comte d'Hautefeuille; he employed himself in translating select portions of Byron ; the Comtesse d'Hautefeuille, his wife, is the clever Author of the Ame exilée, &c. &c.
+ The following appeared in the Gazette de France of Tuesday the 27th of February, 1787 : “ the Count Charles d’Hautefeuille, the Baron de St. Marsault ; the Baron de St. Marsault-Chatelaillon, and the Chevalier de Chateaubriand, who had all previously the honour of being presented to the King-have had the further honour of riding in one of the royal carriages, and accompanying his Majesty to hunt."
The drums beat; the guard take arms, the word of command is given.—The King is announced !—He comes forth, and enters his carriage; we roll along in the carriages of the suite. There was a great difference between this drive and hunt with the King, and my drives and hunts in the plains of Bretagne ; and still more between this and my hunting excursions with the savages of America :
my to be full of these contrasts.
We arrived at the rallying point, where numbers of saddlehorses, led about under the trees, exhibited their impatience. The carriages left in the forest with the guards, – the groups of men and women,—the pack, with difficulty restrained by the huntsmen,—the baying of the dogs,—the neighing of the horses, and the noise of the horns, formed a highly animated scene. The hunting parties of our kings recalled at once the ancient and the modern manners of the monarchy, the rude pastimes of Clovis, Chilperic, and Dagobert, and the gallantry of Francis I., of Henry IV., and Louis XIV.
I was too full of my readings not to see everywhere Comtesses de Chateaubriand, Duchesses d'Etampes, Gabrielles d'Estrées, La Vallières, de Montespans. My imagination regarded this hunting party historically, and I felt myself at my ease ;
was, moreover, in a forest, and therefore at home.
On alighting from the carriages, I presented my ticket to one of the masters of the hunt. A mare called Heureuse was allotted to me---of light mould, but badly mouthed, skittish and full of caprice; she formed a lively image of my fortunes, and was continually pricking up her ears. The King having mounted, set out; the whole field followed him, taking different routes. I remained behind to try a struggle with Heureuse, who was very unwilling to be bestridden by her new master ; I succeeded, however, in throwing myself on her back ; the party was already at a distance.
I contrived at first to manage Heureuse pretty well ; compelled to shorten her gallop, she put down her neck, champed the foaming bit, and bounded with short leaps from side to
side ; but, as she drew near to the scene of action, it became impossible to restrain her. She threw up her head-pulled my hand down to the saddle-bow-dashed at full speed into the midst of a crowd of hunters, clearing everything in her course, and never stopped till she came in contact with the horse of a woman, which she overturned, in the midst of roars of laughter from some, and cries of fear from others. It is quite in vain for me now to attempt to recal the name of that woman, who received my apologies with great politeness. The whole talk of the day turned upon the adventure of the débutant. I was not, however, at the end of
trials. About half an hour after my discomfiture, I was riding in a long alley crossing some wild parts of the wood; a pavilion rose at the extremity; this made me begin to think of the palaces scattered through the royal forests, calling to mind the origin of the long-haired Kings and their mysterious pleasures. A shot was fired; Heureuse turned short round, brushed, with her head down, into the thicket, and carried me precisely to the spot at which the stag had just been brought down. The King appeared.
I then remembered, but too late, the injunctions of the Duc de Coigny. The cursed Heureuse had done it all. I leaped to the ground, with one hand pushing back my mare, with the other holding off my hat. The King looked at me, and merely saw that a débutant was in before him at the death. He wished to speak ; and instead of being angry, he said to me, in a good-humoured tone, and with a loud laugh, “ It has not lasted long.” These were the only words I ever heard from Louis XVI. The suite came in from all sides, and were astonished to find me talking with the King. The débutant Chateaubriand made some noise in consequence of his adventures ; but, as it has always happened since, he knew neither how to profit by his good nor
evil fortune. The King ran three other stags. The débutants not being allowed to ride more than the first run, I went to wait
at Val with my companions for the King's return from the hunt.
His Majesty returned to Val; he was in good humour, and gave an account of the accidents of the chase. We took the road to Versailles. There was a new disappointment for my brother ; for, instead of going to dress, in order to attend at the unbooting of the King, a moment of triumph and favour, I threw myself into the corner of my carriage, and re-entered Paris, full of joy at being delivered from my honours and my evils. I declared to my brother that I was determined to return to Bretagne.
Satisfied with having made his name known, and hoping one day to bring to maturity, by his own appearance at court, what had proved barren in mine, he made no more opposition to the departure of such an odd brother.*
Such was my first view of the city and of the court. Society appeared to me even more odious than I had imagined it; but if it frightened, it did not discourage me. I felt confusedly that I was superior to what I had seen. unconquerable disgust to the court. This disgust, or rather this contempt, which I could not conceal, will prevent my success, or make me fall from the highest point of my
I took an
However, if I formed an opinion of the world without having seen it, the world, in its turn, knew nothing of me. No one at my début guessed what I might be worth ; and on my return to Paris, it was as little calculated on. mournful celebrity many persons have said to me : we should have noticed you if we had met you in your youth !" This compliment is nothing but the illusion of a fame already gained. Men resemble each other in their exterior: in vain
* The Mémorial Historique de la Noblesse has published a document, marked by the King, and extracted from the archives of the kingdom, historical section, M. 813 and 814. Amongst the entries, are the names of my brother and myself, showing that my memory has been correct in the dates.
Rousseau has told us that he possessed a pair of small, but very charming eyes ; it is no less certain—witness his portrait—that he had the air of a schoolmaster or a growling shoemaker.
To finish with the court, I will add, that after having revisited Bretagne, and come to settle in Paris with my younger sisters, Lucile and Julie, I plunged more than ever into my solitary habits. I may be asked, what became of the history of my presentation ? It stopped there. You then never hunted any more with the King ? No more than with the Emperor of China. You never returned then to Versailles ? I went twice as far as Sèvres ; my heart failed me, and I returned to Paris. Yoa derived no advantage then from your position ? None. What did you do then? I wearied. So, then, you felt none of the stirrings of ambition? Just so: by the help of intrigues and anxieties, I effected the glory of inserting in the Almanac des Muses, a pastoral, whose appearance seemed to kill me with hope and fear. I would have given all the King's carriages to have composed the romance,
O ma tendre musette ! or, De mon berger volage.
Useful in everything for others, good for nothing for myself; such I am.
Paris, June, 1821.
JOURNEY TO BRETAGNE-GARRISON OF DIEPPE-RETURN TO PARIS
WITH LỤCILE AND JULIA.
The whole of the preceding book was written at Berlin. I have returned to Paris for the baptism of the Duc de Bordeaux, and have given up my embassy from fidelity to the party of M. de Villèle, who has resigned. Having now leisure, let me write. In proportion as these Memoirs grew from my past years, they represent to me the lower portion of an hour-glass, constituting the fallen sands of my life: when they have all run through, I would not turn my hour-glass, even if God had given me the power.