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Day fled, and I stood on our darkened threshold,
My arms flung wide for our gold-haired Alice,
She did not rise, and she did not answer,
Her palms were crossed on her breast;
But I placed the flowers in her waxen fingers,
Bring this with thee when our souls encounter
BOYHOOD AMID STRANGE SCENES.
THE subject of the present paper was nursed in "Hell!" "Tis a fact that would certainly be a fitting preface to a youth and age yet more singular, and replete with vicissitudes than his was. However, that there may be no ambiguity, the reader must understand that when he has travelled about six miles on the road to Brest, from Rennes, the capital of the ancient province of Brittany, he will himself be in the "Hell" alluded to. It is neither more nor less than a Breton hamlet, and has two neighbours with appropriate titles, the second village being termed "Purgatory," and the third, "Paradise."
He was nursed in hell, then, and that was not enough. His nurse, good-hearted dame! occasionally lent him to a gossip of hers, in the mendicant line. The sight of the child helped to inspire compassion, and it is not at all impossible that the motherly nurse, besides the relaxation from attending on him, gained in other ways, and had quite a pleasant evening when her gossip returned from her tour among the compassionate. Nevertheless, the babe on the beggar's arm was a youth of high degree. His mother was Jeanne Renée Le Saulnier de Vauhelle, his father was Simon Guillaume Gabriel Bruté de Rèmur, (names surely guarantees of noble blood), whilst he himself, small as he was, bore as grand a name as his father, who, at his birth, was Superintendent of the Royal Domains in Brittany. Young Simon Guillaume Gabriel Bruté de Rèmur was born in the spring of the year 1779. He only remained fifteen months in Hell, with his nurse. After that, there seemed little chance of his being an addition to parties in the mendicant line. Some of his earliest recollections were illuminated by the spectacle of splendid suites of apartments in the palace of the parliament in Rennes, and superbly situated villas in the country. From the little table where, with other children, he was set apart
to his meals, he could perceive of an occasion, five Bishops honoring the board of his father with their presence, not to speak of deputies, nobles, and officers.
But his father died, and like many another good and honest man, he was not the best book-keeper in the world. He had allowed men to His affairs, in fact,
get into his debt to the amount of millions of francs. were one tangle of confusion; the only thing clearly visible, at first sight, being that his wife would act a very foolish part if she took his responsibilities upon herself. She was advised to renounce the succession. But a virtuous woman will sometimes do very foolish things in the eyes of the worldly-wise-things, too, which may seem noble and heroic to others, whose standard of perfection is calculated upon other rules than the increas of the minted coin of the realm. Madame de Rèmur wished both 10 vindicate her husband's good name, aud do justice to his creditors. At the risk of sacrificing her own property, she took upon herself the management of his affairs, paid all his debts and lessened the inevitable loss.
This trait in the character of Gabriel Bruté's mother, paints the woman. It shows high resolve, firmness, and capacity, mingling with devoted affection. That love in firmness, may be illustrated by a domestic anecdote, which had its influence in the formation of the boy's character. She lived to a great age, but was always an early riser, and without early rising, she would say to her son, there is no longevity. She was fully of the opinion of the Salernian school, whose wisdom, on this point, is embodied in two lines, Sex horas dormire, sat est juvenique, senique, Nos septem pigri, nulli concedimus octo.
When the lad of twelve hesitated at jumping from bed at four or halfpast four in summer, and an hour later in winter, when his hands would rub his eyes, and pitiful sighs respond to her appeal of "Gabriel, Gabriel, debout!" (up!), she would begin to sing in a half-gay, half-serious manner, an inspiriting verse of a French hymn.
N'attendez point cet age
Où les hommes n'ont plus,
Pour les grandes vertus.
The tenderness for her son did not cause her to refrain from urging him to do what she knew would redound to his greater good; and for that, he was grateful all the days of his life.
Gabriel's first confessor, to whom the heaviest sin he had to avow was having taken an apple from the stand of an old fruit-woman, was the celebrated Abbé Carron. He was the author of a work entitled "The Confessors of the faith in the Gallican Church at the end of the eighteenth century," and a friend of Lamennais. Baron d'Eckstein, the distinguished French writer who knew both intimately, contrasting Carron with the latter, says "he had a heart of gold, united with a true knowledge of men," and was 66 the only priest to whom Lamennais always did justice, and
whose death was an irretrievable misfortune for him. This man had the genius of goodness." Under him, Gabriel with others prepared for first
communion; the place of their Retreat being the Hall of the Charnelhouse, a long, narrow room, filled with benches, with the skulls and bones of by-goue generations piled, according to a custom of the country, in a kind of loft above their heads. Through the lattice-work the youthful Present beheld the relics of the Past. It was a most beautiful and a most Christian custom in those days, in France, or at least in Brittany, for the well-to-do classes who approached the holy sacrament for the first time to choose a "brother of communion," from amongst the poor who should be taken care of and brought up as one of the family, until a trade was provided for him. This occurred in Gabriel's case, whose "brother of communion was named Lamiral. For three years preceding, Gabriel had been attending the college of Rennes, under the supervision of the Rev. Father Sorette, but this year saw many changes. It was 1791. The days had been growing gradually more and more gloomy, and the storm which had swept over many places, broke at length upon Rennes. Ecclesiastics of high station had identified themselves with the king's cause, and, perhaps, were but two well pleased that the masses should identify not only all priests, but religion itself with his career. The result, however, was lamentable. The Constituent Assembly, in 1789, confiscated all ecclesiastical property, next year suppressed all religious orders, and framed its "civil constitution of the clergy." By this absurd edict, priests. and Bishops were to be chosen by the electors, like the members of the Assembly; they were not to be allowed to apply to the Pope for confirmation, though permitted to write to him as visible head of the Church, in sign of unity. Then came the struggle. All priests were to swear allegiance to this law, and very few of them would do so. Only four of the 135 Bishops of France took the oath (one of them being the famous Talleyrand), and among the priests, the proportion between the jurors and non-jurors was not very much dissimilar. The college at Rennes was broken up, and Father Sorette, Gabriel's special teacher, in a few short years died a martyr. The years immediately succeeding gave him a teaching and a knowledge which books could never have impressed upon his mind with so much vividity. In 1793-4, his mother had him employed in a printing office. That he might get a livelihood? Not exactly; but that he might escape from being enrolled in a regiment. How can this fact be reconciled with his age, for he was then only about fourteen? Very easily, and very curiously. With admiration of old Roman institutions, the Country had become inspired with Pagan ideas to a considerable extent. Fervor for the constitution of the country, or state-worship, had become prevalent. Every class of society desired to exhibit its enthusiasm in this respect. Women shared it, and it is well known how prominent a part they acted. But children shared it also. And in Rennes, boys of 14, 15, and 16 were enrolled into a regiment, called "The Hope of the Country," and sent a deputation to the revolutionary tribunal to request that they might be allowed the privilege of despatching political criminals. The delegates were requested to take their seat beside the judges, as a mark of honour and confidence. They did so, and presided at the trial of several
prisoners who were then handed over to them to be shot. Amid such scenes did Gabriel pass some years of his boyhood, and from such contamination did his mother succeed in saving him, by sending him to a printer's office, where, by the way, he became a good compositor.
Some of his recollections of those years are exceedingly interesting and remarkable. The Revolutionary Tribunals were open to the public; many, however, who had friends on their trial there did not wish to appear in that court. They feared lest attention, which might prove the reverse of pleasant, should be drawn on themselves. In such a state of excitement, a word-a look of compassion for old friends, whom the tribunal saw reason to condemn as enemies of the state, might prove their own indictment. Hence, as emissaries, were sent into those courts persons who would not be likely to attract suspicion. Gabriel was often sent by his family to gain intelligence of the fate of friends, clerical and lay. It was a serious occupation for a boy. How dark, how sad, how terrible must have been the hours he passed there, gazing with anguish on men (whom he knew and venerated) being subjected to examinations which, he felt from sorrowful experience, must lead to their death. Three tribunals were, at that time, sitting, often the same day there were the regular criminal court, to which the majority of the priests were sent; the Revolutionary Tribunal, which judged political conspirators; and the military commission, which took cognizance of those taken with arms in their hands. Gabriel used to listen to the questions and replies, and they made such an impression on him that he was able to repeat them, almost word for word, on his return home. Read one of his narrations of those fatal scenes, it is more thrilling than a tragedy, Seldom, indeed, have we had the opportunity of realizing the sanguinary events of those times, as the words of this youthful eye-witness have enabled us now to do. He begins his account as follows:--" Mr. Raoul and the three good sisters of La Chapelle St. Aubert have been seized and brought to the city yesterday-to-day they were to be tried." Such was the sad news of the morning, and about 8 or 9 o'clock I saw them passing our windows on their way to the Tribunal, followed by the mob, who accompanied them with the usual cry, "à la Guillotine" (to the Guillotine). I immediately went after them, and, young as I was, crept along from place to place until I got so near that I stood immediately behind Mr. Raoul, seated upon the bench, with my arms folded upon the railing, almost touching his back. The sisters were seated upon a bench across the other side of the floor. The judges, elevated, with their seats upon a higher floor (or dais), about upon a level with the heads of the prisoners and the gendarmes. The president of the court was Bonassier, who had been a reputable attorney of Rennes, esteemed before the Revolution as a good moral man, but a "philosopher," as our French Deists were called; naturally kind-hearted, but gradually drawn on, or rather pushed on, from one excess to the other, and then fixed in his dreadful position by personal fear. "Thy name and age," said the president. "Raoul Bodin," answered the priest, aged seventy," or perhaps more, I do not exactly remember, but I still sce the worthy man as he sat there, tall, very thin, with a bald forehead,
hair quite gray, a placid, noble, and truly religious countenance. "Thy profession?" "A priest-curè of the Chapelle St. Aubert.' "Didst thou take the civic oath ?" "No, citizen." "Why not?" was then asked, and he answered, "Because I could not, according to my conscientions views of the subject." Two or three short questions and answers may then have taken place which I do not call to mind, but I remember distinctly that the good old man began to entreat in favour of the three sisters, in whose house he had been arrested; speaking in a very calm but very affecting manner to the president and the court for two or three minutes, until he was repeatedly silenced. The tones of his voice are still sounding in my ears; his words were to this effect:" Citizen-judges! will you put to death these poor ladies for an act of hospitality so inoffensive to the public-so natural, so worthy of their kind hearts, when I had been for twenty years, or more, their pastor? Spare them, citizens, it becomes so much better the Republic to show clemency," &c. "Silence, they must speak for themselves. Silence! it is none of thy office to address the tribunal in their favour. Silence! citizen." He was compelled to stop, sat down, and looked toward the poor sisters, who were then called upon successively to give their names and ages, and acknowledge that they knew the priest, and gave him asylum, in contravention to the national decrees. They were three elderly sisters, between forty-five and fifty years of age. After detailing part of their examination he says-" One of the sisters began to entreat in favour of the good old man, as he had done for them, but in a more earnest and severe manner. How cruel it would be to put to death so holy and innocent a man, who had committed no crime, but whose whole life had been spent in doing good to all, and especially to those who were then called the 'Sansculottes,' so particularly dear to the Republic, to the poor, to the aged, to the little ones," &c. She was repeatedly ordered to be silent, but only became the more animated, until compelled to hold her peace and let the matter take its course. The president then proceeded, after scarcely a moment's conference with the other judges, to pass sentence of death upon the priest Raoul and the three sisters who had given him asylum-adding the usual order, that all the religious objects found in the house, and which, in the language of the sentence were styled les hochets des fanaticisme, toys of fanaticism, should be previously burned at the side of the scaffold." The nun, who had already spoken, could not conceal her indignation, addressing the judges and the people, she vehemently reproached them: "Barbarous people," she exclaimed, " amongst what savage nation has hospitality been ever made a crime, punishable with death?" But pleas or reproach availed nothing; the same day the four victims ascended the steps of the guillotine and looked their last on this world. The youthful Gabriel never accompanied the condemned to that final scene; such a spot would have been too repugnant to his soul, and contrary to all his mother's teachings. Many a time, however, he had occasion to observe the condemned on their way to execution. Affecting was the conduct of several upon this solemn march. Let him relate an instance. "One morning I was seated early at my studies, about half-past five o'clock, when, to my surprise, I heard at a