THE PARIS SKETCH BOOK OF MR. M. A. TITMARSH (1840)
"Go, my nephew," said old Father Jacob to me, "and complete thy studies at
Strasburg: Heaven surely hath ordained thee for the ministry in these times
of trouble, and my excellent friend Schneider will work out the divine
Schneider was an old college friend of uncle Jacob's, was a Benedictine
monk, and a man famous for his learning; as for me, I was at that time my
uncle's chorister, clerk, and sacristan; I swept the church, chanted the
prayers with my shrill treble, and swung the great copper incense-pot on
Sundays and feasts; and I toiled over the Fathers for the other days of the
The old gentleman said that my progress was prodigious, and, without vanity,
I believe he was right, for I then verily considered that praying was my
vocation, and not fighting, as I have found since.
You would hardly conceive (said the Captain, swearing a great oath) how
devout and how learned I was in those days; I talked Latin faster than my
own beautiful patois of Alsacian French; I could utterly overthrow in
argument every Protestant (heretics we called them) parson in the
neighborhood, and there was a confounded sprinkling of these unbelievers in
our part of the country. I prayed half a dozen times a day; I fasted thrice
in a week; and, as for penance, I used to scourge my little sides, till they
had no more feeling than a peg-top: such was the godly life I led at my
uncle Jacob's in the village of Steinbach.
Our family had long dwelt in this place, and a large farm and a pleasant
house were then in the possession of another uncle--uncle Edward. He was the
youngest of the three sons of my grandfather; but Jacob, the elder, had
shown a decided vocation for the church, from, I believe, the age of three,
and now was by no means tired of it at sixty. My father, who was to have
inherited the paternal property, was, as I hear, a terrible scamp and
scapegrace, quarrelled with his family, and disappeared altogether, living
and dying at Paris; so far we knew through my mother, who came, poor woman,
with me, a child of six months, on her bosom, was refused all shelter by my
grandfather, but was housed and kindly cared for by my good uncle Jacob.
Here she lived for about seven years, and the old gentleman, when she died,
wept over her grave a great deal more than I did, who was then too young to
mind anything but toys or sweetmeats.
During this time my grandfather was likewise carried off: he left, as I
said, the property to his son Edward, with a small proviso in his will that
something should be done for me, his grandson.
Edward was himself a widower, with one daughter, Mary, about three years
older than I, and certainly she was the dearest little treasure with which
Providence ever blessed a miserly father; by the time she was fifteen, five
farmers, three lawyers, twelve Protestant parsons, and a lieutenant of
Dragoons had made her offers: it must not be denied that she was an heiress
as well as a beauty, which, perhaps, had something to do with the love of
these gentlemen. However, Mary declared that she intended to live single,
turned away her lovers one after another, and devoted herself to the care of
Uncle Jacob was as fond of her as he was of any saint or martyr. As for me,
at the mature age of twelve I had made a kind of divinity of her, and when
we sang "Ave Maria" on Sundays I could not refrain from turning to her,
where she knelt, blushing and praying and looking like an angel, as she was.
Besides her beauty, Mary had a thousand good qualities; she could play
better on the harpsichord, she could dance more lightly, she could make
better pickles and puddings, than any girl in Alsace; there was not a want
or a fancy of the old hunks her father, or a wish of mine or my uncle's,
that she would not gratify if she could; as for herself, the sweet soul had
neither wants nor wishes except to see us happy.
I could talk to you for a year of all the pretty kindnesses that she would
do for me; how, when she found me of early mornings among my books, her
presence "would cast a light upon the day;" how she used to smooth and fold
my little surplice, and embroider me caps and gowns for high feast-days; how
she used to bring flowers for the altar, and who could deck it so well as
she? But sentiment does not come glibly from under a grizzled moustache, so
I will drop it, if you please.
Amongst other favors she showed me, Mary used to be particularly fond of
kissing me: it was a thing I did not so much value in those days, but I
found that the more I grew alive to the extent of the benefit, the less she
would condescend to confer it on me; till at last, when I was about
fourteen, she discontinued it altogether, of her own wish at least; only
sometimes I used to be rude, and take what she had now become so mighty
unwilling to give.
I was engaged in a contest of this sort one day with Mary, when, just as I
was about to carry off a kiss from her cheek, I was saluted with a
staggering slap on my own, which was bestowed by uncle Edward, and sent me
reeling some yards down the garden.
The old gentleman, whose tongue was generally as close as his purse, now
poured forth a flood of eloquence which quite astonished me. I did not think
that so much was to be said on any subject as he managed to utter on one,
and that was abuse of me; he stamped, he swore, he screamed; and then, from
complimenting me, he turned to Mary, and saluted her in a manner equally
forcible and significant; she, who was very much frightened at the
commencement of the scene, grew very angry at the coarse words he used, and
the wicked motives he imputed to her.
"The child is but fourteen," she said; "he is your own nephew, and a
candidate for holy orders:--father, it is a shame that you should thus speak
of me, your daughter, or of one of his holy profession."
I did not particularly admire this speech myself, but it had an effect on my
uncle, and was the cause of the words with which this history commences. The
old gentleman persuaded his brother that I must be sent to Strasburg, and
there kept until my studies for the church were concluded. I was furnished
with a letter to my uncle's old college chum, Professor Schneider, who was
to instruct me in theology and Greek.
I was not sorry to see Strasburg, of the wonders of which I had heard so
much; but felt very loth as the time drew near when I must quit my pretty
cousin, and my good old uncle. Mary and I managed, however, a parting walk,
in which a number of tender things were said on both sides. I am told that
you Englishmen consider it cowardly to cry; as for me, I wept and roared
incessantly: when Mary squeezed me, for the last time, the tears came out of
me as if I had been neither more nor less than a great wet sponge. My
cousin's eyes were stoically dry; her ladyship had a part to play, and it
would have been wrong for her to be in love with a young chit of
fourteen--so she carried herself with perfect coolness, as if there was
nothing the matter. I should not have known that she cared for me, had it
not been for a letter which she wrote me a month afterwards--Then, nobody
was by, and the consequence was that the letter was half washed away with
her weeping; if she had used a watering-pot the thing could not have been
Well, I arrived at Strasburg--a dismal, old-fashioned, rickety town in those
days--and straightway presented myself and letter at Schneider's door; over
it was written--
COMIT? DE SALUT PUBLIC.
Would you believe it? I was so ignorant a young fellow, that I had no idea
of the meaning of the words; however, I entered the citizen's room without
fear, and sat down in his ante-chamber until I could be admitted to see him.
Here I found very few indications of his reverence's profession; the walls
were hung round with portraits of Robespierre, Marat, and the like; a great
bust of Mirabeau, mutilated, with the word Tra?tre underneath; lists and
republican proclamations, tobacco- pipes and fire-arms. At a deal-table,
stained with grease and wine, sat a gentleman, with a huge pigtail dangling
down to that part of his person which immediately succeeds his back, and a
red nightcap, containing a Tricolor cockade as large as a pancake. He was
smoking a short pipe, reading a little book, and sobbing as if his heart
would break. Every now and then he would make brief remarks upon the
personages or the incidents of his book, by which I could judge that he was
a man of the very keenest sensibilities-- "Ah, brigand!" "O malheureuse!" "O
Charlotte, Charlotte!" The work which this gentleman was perusing is called
"The Sorrows of Werter;" it was all the rage, in those days, and my friend
was only following the fashion. I asked him if I could see Father Schneider?
he turned towards me a hideous, pimpled face, which I dream of now at forty
"Father who?" said he. "Do you imagine that citizen Schneider has not thrown
off the absurd mummery of priesthood? If you were a little older you would
go to prison for calling him Father Schneider--many a man has died for
less;" and he pointed to a picture of a guillotine, which was hanging in the
I was in amazement.
"What is he? Is he not a teacher of Greek, an abb?, a monk, until
monasteries were abolished, the learned editor of the songs of 'Anacreon?'"
"He WAS all this," replied my grim friend; "he is now a Member of the
Committee of Public Safety, and would think no more of ordering your head
off than of drinking this tumbler of beer."
He swallowed, himself, the frothy liquid, and then proceeded to give me the
history of the man to whom my uncle had sent me for instruction.
Schneider was born in 1756: was a student at WEzburg, and afterwards
entered a convent, where he remained nine years. He here became
distinguished for his learning and his talents as a preacher, and became
chaplain to Duke Charles of WEtemberg. The doctrines of the Illuminati
began about this time to spread in Germany, and Schneider speedily joined
the sect. He had been a professor of Greek at Cologne; and being compelled,
on account of his irregularity, to give up his chair, he came to Strasburg
at the commencement of the French Revolution, and acted for some time a
principal part as a revolutionary agent at Strasburg.
["Heaven knows what would have happened to me had I continued long under his
tuition!" said the Captain. "I owe the preservation of my morals entirely to
my entering the army. A man, sir, who is a soldier, has very little time to
be wicked; except in the case of a siege and the sack of a town, when a
little license can offend nobody."]
By the time that my friend had concluded Schneider's biography, we had grown
tolerably intimate, and I imparted to him (with that experience so
remarkable in youth) my whole history--my course of studies, my pleasant
country life, the names and qualities of my dear relations, and my
occupations in the vestry before religion was abolished by order of the
Republic. In the course of my speech I recurred so often to the name of my
cousin Mary, that the gentleman could not fail to perceive what a tender
place she had in my heart.
Then we reverted to "The Sorrows of Werter," and discussed the merits of
that sublime performance. Although I had before felt some misgivings about
my new acquaintance, my heart now quite yearned towards him. He talked about
love and sentiment in a manner which made me recollect that I was in love
myself; and you know that when a man is in that condition, his taste is not
very refined, any maudlin trash of prose or verse appearing sublime to him,
provided it correspond, in some degree, with his own situation.
"Candid youth!" cried my unknown, "I love to hear thy innocent story and
look on thy guileless face. There is, alas! so much of the contrary in this
world, so much terror and crime and blood, that we who mingle with it are
only too glad to forget it. Would that we could shake off our cares as men,
and be boys, as thou art, again!"
Here my friend began to weep once more, and fondly shook my hand. I blessed
my stars that I had, at the very outset of my career, met with one who was
so likely to aid me. What a slanderous world it is, thought I; the people in
our village call these Republicans wicked and bloody-minded; a lamb could
not be more tender than this sentimental bottle-nosed gentleman! The worthy
man then gave me to understand that he held a place under Government. I was
busy in endeavoring to discover what his situation might be, when the door
of the next apartment opened, and Schneider made his appearance.
At first he did not notice me, but he advanced to my new acquaintance, and
gave him, to my astonishment, something very like a blow.
"You drunken, talking fool," he said, "you are always after your time.
Fourteen people are cooling their heels yonder, waiting until you have
finished your beer and your sentiment!"
My friend slunk muttering out of the room.
"That fellow," said Schneider, turning to me, "is our public executioner: a
capital hand too if he would but keep decent time; but the brute is always
drunk, and blubbering over 'The Sorrows of Werter!'"
I know not whether it was his old friendship for my uncle, or my proper
merits, which won the heart of this the sternest ruffian of Robespierre's
crew; but certain it is, that he became strangely attached to me, and kept
me constantly about his person. As for the priesthood and the Greek, they
were of course very soon out of the question. The Austrians were on our
frontier; every day brought us accounts of battles won; and the youth of
Strasburg, and of all France, indeed, were bursting with military ardor. As
for me, I shared the general mania, and speedily mounted a cockade as large
as that of my friend, the executioner.
The occupations of this worthy were unremitting. Saint Just, who had come
down from Paris to preside over our town, executed the laws and the
aristocrats with terrible punctuality; and Schneider used to make country
excursions in search of offenders with this fellow, as a provost-marshal, at
his back. In the meantime, having entered my sixteenth year, and being a
proper lad of my age, I had joined a regiment of cavalry, and was scampering
now after the Austrians who menaced us, and now threatening the Emigr?s, who
were banded at Coblentz. My love for my dear cousin increased as my whiskers
grew; and when I was scarcely seventeen, I thought myself man enough to
marry her, and to cut the throat of any one who should venture to say me
I need not tell you that during my absence at Strasburg, great changes had
occurred in our little village, and somewhat of the revolutionary rage had
penetrated even to that quiet and distant place. The hideous "F?te of the
Supreme Being" had been celebrated at Paris; the practice of our ancient
religion was forbidden; its professors were most of them in concealment, or
in exile, or had expiated on the scaffold their crime of Christianity. In
our poor village my uncle's church was closed, and he, himself, an inmate in
my brother's house, only owing his safety to his great popularity among his
former flock, and the influence of Edward Ancel.
The latter had taken in the Revolution a somewhat prominent part; that is,
he had engaged in many contracts for the army, attended the clubs regularly,
corresponded with the authorities of his department, and was loud in his
denunciations of the aristocrats in the neighborhood. But owing, perhaps, to
the German origin of the peasantry, and their quiet and rustic lives, the
revolutionary fury which prevailed in the cities had hardly reached the
country people. The occasional visit of a commissary from Paris or Strasburg
served to keep the flame alive, and to remind the rural swains of the
existence of a Republic in France.
Now and then, when I could gain a week's leave of absence, I returned to the
village, and was received with tolerable politeness by my uncle, and with a
warmer feeling by his daughter.
I won't describe to you the progress of our love, or the wrath of my uncle
Edward, when he discovered that it still continued. He swore and he stormed;
he locked Mary into her chamber, and vowed that he would withdraw the
allowance he made me, if ever I ventured near her. His daughter, he said,
should never marry a hopeless, penniless subaltern; and Mary declared she
would not marry without his consent. What had I to do? -- to despair and to
leave her. As for my poor uncle Jacob, he had no counsel to give me, and,
indeed, no spirit left: his little church was turned into a stable, his
surplice torn off his shoulders, and he was only too lucky in keeping His
HEAD on them. A bright thought struck him: suppose you were to ask the
advice of my old friend Schneider regarding this marriage? he has ever been
your friend, and may help you now as before.
(Here the Captain paused a little.) You may fancy (continued he) that it was
droll advice of a reverend gentleman like uncle Jacob to counsel me in this
manner, and to bid me make friends with such a murderous cut-throat as
Schneider; but we thought nothing of it in those days; guillotining was as
common as dancing, and a man was only thought the better patriot the more
severe he might be. I departed forthwith to Strasburg, and requested the
vote and interest of the Citizen President of the Committee of Public
He heard me with a great deal of attention. I described to him most minutely
the circumstance, expatiated upon the charms of my dear Mary, and painted
her to him from head to foot. Her golden hair and her bright blushing
cheeks, her slim waist and her tripping tiny feet; and furthermore, I added
that she possessed a fortune which ought, by rights, to be mine, but for the
miserly old father. "Curse him for an aristocrat!" concluded I, in my wrath.
As I had been discoursing about Mary's charms Schneider listened with much
complacency and attention: when I spoke about her fortune, his interest
redoubled; and when I called her father an aristocrat, the worthy ex-Jesuit
gave a grin of satisfaction, which was really quite terrible. O fool that I
was to trust him so far!
The very same evening an officer waited upon me with the following note from
"STRASBURG, Fifth year of the Republic, one and indivisible, 11 Ventose.
"The citizen Pierre Ancel is to leave Strasburg within two hours, and to
carry the enclosed despatches to the President of the Committee of Public
Safety at Paris. The necessary leave of absence from his military duties has
been provided. Instant punishment will follow the slightest delay on the
Salut et Fraternit?."
There was no choice but obedience, and off I sped on my weary way to the
As I was riding out of the Paris gate I met an equipage which I knew to be
that of Schneider. The ruffian smiled at me as I passed, and wished me a bon
voyage. Behind his chariot came a curious machine, or cart; a great basket,
three stout poles, and several planks, all painted red, were lying in this
vehicle, on the top of which was seated my friend with the big cockade. It
was the PORTABLE GUILLOTINE which Schneider always carried with him on his
travels. The bourreau was reading "The Sorrows of Werter," and looked as
sentimental as usual.
I will not speak of my voyage in order to relate to you Schneider's. My
story had awakened the wretch's curiosity and avarice, and he was determined
that such a prize as I had shown my cousin to be should fall into no hands
but his own. No sooner, in fact, had I quitted his room than he procured the
order for my absence, and was on the way to Steinbach as I met him.
The journey is not a very long one; and on the next day my uncle Jacob was
surprised by receiving a message that the citizen Schneider was in the
village, and was coming to greet his old friend. Old Jacob was in an
ecstasy, for he longed to see his college acquaintance, and he hoped also
that Schneider had come into that part of the country upon the
marriage-business of your humble servant. Of course Mary was summoned to
give her best dinner, and wear her best frock; and her father made ready to
receive the new State dignitary.
Schneider's carriage speedily rolled into the court-yard, and Schneider's
Cart followed, as a matter of course. The ex-priest only entered the house;
his companion remaining with the horses to dine in private. Here was a most
touching meeting between him and Jacob. They talked over their old college
pranks and successes; they capped Greek verses, and quoted ancient epigrams
upon their tutors, who had been dead since the Seven Years' War. Mary
declared it was quite touching to listen to the merry friendly talk of these
two old gentlemen.
After the conversation had continued for a time in this strain, Schneider
drew up all of a sudden, and said quietly, that he had come on particular
and unpleasant business--hinting about troublesome times, spies, evil
reports, and so forth. Then he called uncle Edward aside, and had with him a
long and earnest conversation: so Jacob went out and talked with Schneider's
FRIEND; they speedily became very intimate, for the ruffian detailed all the
circumstances of his interview with me. When he returned into the house,
some time after this pleasing colloquy, he found the tone of the society
strangely altered. Edward Ancel, pale as a sheet, trembling, and crying for
mercy; poor Mary weeping; and Schneider pacing energetically about the
apartment, raging about the rights of man, the punishment of traitors, and
the one and indivisible republic.
"Jacob," he said, as my uncle entered the room, "I was willing, for the sake
of our old friendship, to forget the crimes of your brother. He is a known
and dangerous aristocrat; he holds communications with the enemy on the
frontier; he is a possessor of great and ill-gotten wealth, of which he has
plundered the Republic. Do you know," said he, turning to Edward Ancel,
"where the least of these crimes, or the mere suspicion of them, would lead
Poor Edward sat trembling in his chair, and answered not a word. He knew
full well how quickly, in this dreadful time, punishment followed suspicion;
and, though guiltless of all treason with the enemy, perhaps he was aware
that, in certain contracts with the Government, he had taken to himself a
more than patriotic share of profit.
"Do you know," resumed Schneider, in a voice of thunder, "for what purpose I
came hither, and by whom I am accompanied? I am the administrator of the
justice of the Republic. The life of yourself and your family is in my
hands: yonder man, who follows me, is the executor of the law; he has rid
the nation of hundreds of wretches like yourself. A single word from me, and
your doom is sealed without hope, and your last hour is come. Ho! Gregoire!"
shouted he; "is all ready?"
Gregoire replied from the court, "I can put up the machine in half an hour.
Shall I go down to the village and call the troops and the law people?"
"Do you hear him?" said Schneider. "The guillotine is in the court-yard;
your name is on my list, and I have witnesses to prove your crime. Have you
a word in your defence?"
Not a word came; the old gentleman was dumb; but his daughter, who did not
give way to his terror, spoke for him.
"You cannot, sir," said she, "although you say it, FEEL that my father is
guilty; you would not have entered our house thus alone if you had thought
it. You threaten him in this manner because you have something to ask and to
gain from us: what is it, citizen? -- tell us how much you value our lives,
and what sum we are to pay for our ransom?"
"Sum!" said uncle Jacob; "he does not want money of us: my old friend, my
college chum, does not come hither to drive bargains with anybody belonging
to Jacob Ancel?"
"Oh, no, sir, no, you can't want money of us," shrieked Edward; "we are the
poorest people of the village: ruined, Monsieur Schneider, ruined in the
cause of the Republic."
"Silence, father," said my brave Mary; "this man wants a PRICE: he comes,
with his worthy friend yonder, to frighten us, not to kill us. If we die, he
cannot touch a sou of our money; it is confiscated to the State. Tell us,
sir, what is the price of our safety?"
Schneider smiled, and bowed with perfect politeness.
"Mademoiselle Marie," he said, "is perfectly correct in her surmise. I do
not want the life of this poor drivelling old man: my intentions are much
more peaceable, be assured. It rests entirely with this accomplished young
lady (whose spirit I like, and whose ready wit I admire), whether the
business between us shall be a matter of love or death. I humbly offer
myself, citizen Ancel, as a candidate for the hand of your charming
daughter. Her goodness, her beauty, and the large fortune which I know you
intend to give her, would render her a desirable match for the proudest man
in the republic, and, I am sure, would make me the happiest."
"This must be a jest, Monsieur Schneider," said Mary, trembling, and turning
deadly pale: "you cannot mean this; you do not know me: you never heard of
me until to-day."
"Pardon me, belle dame," replied he; "your cousin Pierre has often talked to
me of your virtues; indeed, it was by his special suggestion that I made the
"It is false!--it is a base and cowardly lie!" exclaimed she (for the young
lady's courage was up),--"Pierre never could have forgotten himself and me
so as to offer me to one like you. You come here with a lie on your lips--a
lie against my father, to swear his life away, against my dear cousin's
honor and love. It is useless now to deny it: father, I love Pierre Ancel; I
will marry no other but him--no, though our last penny were paid to this man
as the price of our freedom."
Schneider's only reply to this was a call to his friend Gregoire.
"Send down to the village for the maire and some gendarmes; and tell your
people to make ready."
"Shall I put The Machine up?" shouted he of the sentimental turn.
"You hear him," said Schneider; "Marie Ancel, you may decide the fate of
your father. I shall return in a few hours," concluded he, "and will then
beg to know your decision."
The advocate of the rights of man then left the apartment, and left the
family, as you may imagine, in no very pleasant mood.
Old uncle Jacob, during the few minutes which had elapsed in the enactment
of this strange scene, sat staring wildly at Schneider, and holding Mary on
his knees: the poor little thing had fled to him for protection, and not to
her father, who was kneeling almost senseless at the window, gazing at the
executioner and his hideous preparations. The instinct of the poor girl had
not failed her; she knew that Jacob was her only protector, if not of her
life-- heaven bless him!--of her honor. "Indeed," the old man said, in a
stout voice, "this must never be, my dearest child--you must not marry this
man. If it be the will of Providence that we fall, we shall have at least
the thought to console us that we die innocent. Any man in France at a time
like this, would be a coward and traitor if he feared to meet the fate of
the thousand brave and good who have preceded us."
"Who speaks of dying?" said Edward. "You, Brother Jacob? -- you would not
lay that poor girl's head on the scaffold, or mine, your dear brother's. You
will not let us die, Mary; you will not, for a small sacrifice, bring your
poor old father into danger?"
Mary made no answer. "Perhaps," she said, "there is time for escape: he is
to be here but in two hours; in two hours we may be safe, in concealment, or
on the frontier." And she rushed to the door of the chamber, as if she would
have instantly made the attempt: two gendarmes were at the door. "We have
orders, Mademoiselle," they said, "to allow no one to leave this apartment
until the return of the citizen Schneider."
Alas! all hope of escape was impossible. Mary became quite silent for a
while; she would not speak to uncle Jacob; and, in reply to her father's
eager questions, she only replied, coldly, that she would answer Schneider
when he arrived.
The two dreadful hours passed away only too quickly; and, punctual to his
appointment, the ex-monk appeared. Directly he entered, Mary advanced to
him, and said, calmly,--
"Sir, I could not deceive you if I said that I freely accepted the offer
which you have made me. I will be your wife; but I tell you that I love
another; and that it is only to save the lives of those two old men that I
yield my person up to you."
Schneider bowed, and said,--
"It is bravely spoken. I like your candor--your beauty. As for the love,
excuse me for saying that is a matter of total indifference. I have no
doubt, however, that it will come as soon as your feelings in favor of the
young gentleman, your cousin, have lost their present fervor. That engaging
young man has, at present, another mistress--Glory. He occupies, I believe,
the distinguished post of corporal in a regiment which is about to march
to--Perpignan, I believe."
It was, in fact, Monsieur Schneider's polite intention to banish me as far
as possible from the place of my birth; and he had, accordingly, selected
the Spanish frontier as the spot where I was to display my future military
Mary gave no answer to this sneer: she seemed perfectly resigned and calm:
she only said,--
"I must make, however, some conditions regarding our proposed marriage,
which a gentleman of Monsieur Schneider's gallantry cannot refuse."
"Pray command me," replied the husband elect. "Fair lady, you know I am your
"You occupy a distinguished political rank, citizen representative," said
she; "and we in our village are likewise known and beloved. I should be
ashamed, I confess, to wed you here; for our people would wonder at the
sudden marriage, and imply that it was only by compulsion that I gave you my
hand. Let us, then, perform this ceremony at Strasburg, before the public
authorities of the city, with the state and solemnity which befits the
marriage of one of the chief men of the Republic."
"Be it so, madam," he answered, and gallantly proceeded to embrace his
Mary did not shrink from this ruffian's kiss; nor did she reply when poor
old Jacob, who sat sobbing in a corner, burst out, and said,--
"O Mary, Mary, I did not think this of thee!"
"Silence, brother!" hastily said Edward; "my good son-in-law will pardon
I believe uncle Edward in his heart was pleased at the notion of the
marriage; he only cared for money and rank, and was little scrupulous as to
the means of obtaining them.
The matter then was finally arranged; and presently, after Schneider had
transacted the affairs which brought him into that part of the country, the
happy bridal party set forward for Strasburg. Uncles Jacob and Edward
occupied the back seat of the old family carriage, and the young bride and
bridegroom (he was nearly Jacob's age) were seated majestically in front.
Mary has often since talked to me of this dreadful journey. She said she
wondered at the scrupulous politeness of Schneider during the route; nay,
that at another period she could have listened to and admired the singular
talent of this man, his great learning, his fancy, and wit; but her mind was
bent upon other things, and the poor girl firmly thought that her last day
In the meantime, by a blessed chance, I had not ridden three leagues from
Strasburg, when the officer of a passing troop of a cavalry regiment,
looking at the beast on which I was mounted, was pleased to take a fancy to
it, and ordered me, in an authoritative tone, to descend, and to give up my
steed for the benefit of the Republic. I represented to him, in vain, that I
was a soldier, like himself, and the bearer of despatches to Paris. "Fool!"
he said; "do you think they would send despatches by a man who can ride at
best but ten leagues a day?" And the honest soldier was so wroth at my
supposed duplicity, that he not only confiscated my horse, but my saddle,
and the little portmanteau which contained the chief part of my worldly
goods and treasure. I had nothing for it but to dismount, and take my way on
foot back again to Strasburg. I arrived there in the evening, determining
the next morning to make my case known to the citizen St. Just; and though I
made my entry without a sou, I don't know what secret exultation I felt at
again being able to return.
The ante-chamber of such a great man as St. Just was, in those days, too
crowded for an unprotected boy to obtain an early audience; two days passed
before I could obtain a sight of the friend of Robespierre. On the third
day, as I was still waiting for the interview, I heard a great bustle in the
courtyard of the house, and looked out with many others at the spectacle.
A number of men and women, singing epithalamiums, and dressed in some absurd
imitation of Roman costume, a troop of soldiers and gendarmerie, and an
immense crowd of the badauds of Strasburg, were surrounding a carriage which
then entered the court of the mayoralty. In this carriage, great God! I saw
my dear Mary, and Schneider by her side. The truth instantly came upon me:
the reason for Schneider's keen inquiries and my abrupt dismissal; but I
could not believe that Mary was false to me. I had only to look in her face,
white and rigid as marble, to see that this proposed marriage was not with
I fell back in the crowd as the procession entered the great room in which I
was, and hid my face in my hands: I could not look upon her as the wife of
another,--upon her so long loved and truly--the saint of my childhood--the
pride and hope of my youth--torn from me for ever, and delivered over to the
unholy arms of the murderer who stood before me.
The door of St. Just's private apartment opened, and he took his seat at the
table of mayoralty just as Schneider and his cort?ge arrived before it.
Schneider then said that he came in before the authorities of the Republic
to espouse the citoyenne Marie Ancel.
"Is she a minor?" asked St. Just.
"She is a minor, but her father is here to give her away."
"I am here," said uncle Edward, coming eagerly forward and bowing. "Edward
Ancel, so please you, citizen representative. The worthy citizen Schneider
has done me the honor of marrying into my family."
"But my father has not told you the terms of the marriage," said Mary,
interrupting him, in a loud, clear voice.
Here Schneider seized her hand, and endeavored to prevent her from speaking.
Her father turned pale, and cried, "Stop, Mary, stop! For heaven's sake,
remember your poor old father's danger!"
"Sir, may I speak?"
"Let the young woman speak," said St. Just, "if she have a desire to talk."
He did not suspect what would be the purport of her story.
"Sir," she said, "two days since the citizen Schneider entered for the first
time our house; and you will fancy that it must be a love of very sudden
growth which has brought either him or me before you to-day. He had heard
from a person who is now unhappily not present, of my name and of the wealth
which my family was said to possess; and hence arose this mad design
concerning me. He came into our village with supreme power, an executioner
at his heels, and the soldiery and authorities of the district entirely
under his orders. He threatened my father with death if he refused to give
up his daughter; and I, who knew that there was no chance of escape, except
here before you, consented to become his wife. My father I know to be
innocent, for all his transactions with the State have passed through my
hands. Citizen representative, I demand to be freed from this marriage; and
I charge Schneider as a traitor to the Republic, as a man who would have
murdered an innocent citizen for the sake of private gain."
During the delivery of this little speech, uncle Jacob had been sobbing and
panting like a broken-winded horse; and when Mary had done, he rushed up to
her and kissed her, and held her tight in his arms. "Bless thee, my child!"
he cried, "for having had the courage to speak the truth, and shame thy old
father and me, who dared not say a word."
"The girl amazes me," said Schneider, with a look of astonishment. "I never
saw her, it is true, till yesterday; but I used no force: her father gave
her to me with his free consent, and she yielded as gladly. Speak, Edward
Ancel, was it not so?"
"It was, indeed, by my free consent," said Edward, trembling.
"For shame, brother!" cried old Jacob. "Sir, it was by Edward's free consent
and my niece's; but the guillotine was in the court- yard! Question
Schneider's famulus, the man Gregoire, him who reads 'The Sorrows of Werter.'"
Gregoire stepped forward, and looked hesitatingly at Schneider, as he said,
"I know not what took place within doors; but I was ordered to put up the
scaffold without; and I was told to get soldiers, and let no one leave the
"Citizen St. Just," cried Schneider, "you will not allow the testimony of a
ruffian like this, of a foolish girl, and a mad ex- priest, to weigh against
the word of one who has done such service to the Republic: it is a base
conspiracy to betray me; the whole family is known to favor the interest of
"And therefore you would marry a member of the family, and allow the others
to escape; you must make a better defence, citizen Schneider," said St.
Here I came forward, and said that, three days since, I had received an
order to quit Strasburg for Paris immediately after a conversation with
Schneider, in which I had asked him his aid in promoting my marriage with my
cousin, Mary Ancel; that he had heard from me full accounts regarding her
father's wealth; and that he had abruptly caused my dismissal, in order to
carry on his scheme against her.
"You are in the uniform of a regiment of this town; who sent you from it?"
said St. Just.
I produced the order, signed by himself, and the despatches which Schneider
had sent me.
"The signature is mine, but the despatches did not come from my office. Can
you prove in any way your conversation with Schneider?"
"Why," said my sentimental friend Gregoire, "for the matter of that, I can
answer that the lad was always talking about this young woman: he told me
the whole story himself, and many a good laugh I had with citizen Schneider
as we talked about it."
"The charge against Edward Ancel must be examined into," said St. Just. "The
marriage cannot take place. But if I had ratified it, Mary Ancel, what then
would have been your course?"
Mary felt for a moment in her bosom, and said--"He would have died
to-night--I would have stabbed him with this dagger."*
* This reply, and, indeed, the whole of the story, is historical. An
account, by Charles Nodier, in the Revue de Paris, suggested it to the
The rain was beating down the streets, and yet they were thronged; all the
world was hastening to the market-place, where the worthy Gregoire was about
to perform some of the pleasant duties of his office. On this occasion, it
was not death that he was to inflict; he was only to expose a criminal who
was to be sent on afterwards to Paris. St. Just had ordered that Schneider
should stand for six hours in the public place of Strasburg, and then be
sent on to the capital to be dealt with as the authorities might think fit.
The people followed with execrations the villain to his place of punishment;
and Gregoire grinned as he fixed up to the post the man whose orders he had
obeyed so often--who had delivered over to disgrace and punishment so many
who merited it not.
Schneider was left for several hours exposed to the mockery and insults of
the mob; he was then, according to his sentence, marched on to Paris, where
it is probable that he would have escaped death, but for his own fault. He
was left for some time in prison, quite unnoticed, perhaps forgotten: day by
day fresh victims were carried to the scaffold, and yet the Alsacian tribune
remained alive; at last, by the mediation of one of his friends, a long
petition was presented to Robespierre, stating his services and his
innocence, and demanding his freedom. The reply to this was an order for his
instant execution: the wretch died in the last days of Robespierre's reign.
His comrade, St. Just, followed him, as you know; but Edward Ancel had been
released before this, for the action of my brave Mary had created a strong
feeling in his favor.
"And Mary?" said I.
Here a stout and smiling old lady entered the Captain's little room: she was
leaning on the arm of a military-looking man of some forty years, and
followed by a number of noisy, rosy children.
"This is Mary Ancel," said the Captain, "and I am Captain Pierre, and yonder
is the Colonel, my son; and you see us here assembled in force, for it is
the f?te of little Jacob yonder, whose brothers and sisters have all come
from their schools to dance at his birthday."