Imágenes de páginas

home; and theirs was a home in the true sense of that sacred word. The old nurse who had watched over the cradle of Mme. d'Ayen was still a prominent figure in the household;' and Mdlle. Aufroy, the devoted attendant and friend, was close at hand.

"We were all suckled at home, and under the eye of my mother. The same nurse who had brought her up, gave to us also those physical and moral cares which are needed in childhood. Although this worthy woman received only a very coarse education in her youth, yet she had an extraordinary talent for the care of little children; and the years she passed in the convent near Mme. d'Héricourt had developed this natural disposition. I have never known any one endowed so fully with the faculty of attracting the confidence of the little childish hearts confided to her, and, better still, of interesting them in all she taught them, and in giving them a relish for the lessons they received. She was never obliged to tell fairy tales or ghost-stories, or other absurdities of that sort, to amuse us. A story from the Old Testament, a childish adventure of some little girl at the convent, a good action, true and simple, were related by her with so much natural grace, adapted to the taste of children, and accompanied with a few simple reflections so touching, and so entirely within their comprehension, that she always delighted us, while at the same time she was following my mother's directions. It was my mother's wish not only that we should be taught only what was true, but also that simple and straightforward means alone should be chosen in our instruction, far aloof from the little deceptions and juggleries often adopted with children. We passed several hours of every day with my mother, who received a faithful account of the manner in which the day had been spent. We repeated to her what we had learned; we retold her the little tales that had been told to us. It was her great aim to bring the truth within our comprehension, and to prepare our childish

minds to receive it. She sought to instil a certain unity and harmony into every portion of our education. General principles, morals, the history of facts, the examples of others, and the lessons to be drawn from them-all this was held together and interwoven, as we find it, if I dare use the expression, in the education of Providence. From earliest childhood we were taught never to act from caprice, but rather to enjoy the consciousness that in our little duties, and even in our plays, we were ever under the eye of the heavenly Father. Oh, if I could but still lead my children to her! By this means only could they justly appreciate that eloquence so truly maternal, by which she engraved on our hearts the great truths of religion, and taught us also to know our faults, and the means of correcting them. There was nothing absolute and dogmatic in her manner of instructing, or guiding, or correcting; she was never satisfied until she had convinced the mind of the child to whom she was speaking. Naturally indolent and impatient by temperament, and perhaps too little accustomed to repress this natural vivacity, she still never failed to listen to the little reasonings of her children with the most unwearied patience. We studied the catechisms of Fleury, then the Gospel. Our reading was an abridgment of the Old Testament, geography with maps, the "Ancient History" of Rollin, and, in conversation, we learned a few fables of mythology. My mother read to us, and made us read to her, selections from the great works of the poets-the best pieces of Corneille, Racine, and Voltaire. We were taught by her to dictate letters, even before we knew how to write."

"When we were about ten, my mother gave to her two eldest daughters a governess, Malle. Marin, to whom we owe the deepest gratitude and the most tender attachment, after twenty-seven years of devoted care. With her we studied grammar, and the use of the globes; we prepared extracts from history, while we received, under her eye,

lessons from different masters in the usual accomplishments. But it was still my mother who was the soul of our education; she presided over all, and ordered the most minute details of the arrangements. She would allow no one else to read the choicest selections from the best writers with us, endeavoring to form our taste by the analysis of their beauties. But especially she strove to form our judgment. Both mind and heart were in her equally just and upright, thirsting for the truth. She thus succeeded in warding off many errors and prejudices. We scarcely knew, for instance, the meaning of the vanities of life. And so faithfully did she impress on us, by precept and example, that interest must never for a moment come into collision with integrity, that, in after life, many years passed before we ceased to wonder at a contrary course in people calling themselves honest. The spectacle of evil always pained her, sometimes aroused her indignation, but never embittered her. She delighted in all that was great and good; hers was the 'charity that rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.' In spite of the number of her children, each always received the care and the culture most needed. She taught us also the great lessons of self-correction. As for myself, I shall only say that she constantly endeavored to bring my imagination, much too excitable, under the control of truth and simplicity. While generally satisfied with me, there were moments when she would paint my faults to me with such truth and such force, that the sharpness of the lesson penetrated to the very depths of my soul."

The young ladies-the two elders, at least-reached the age of twelve. The solemn moment of the "first communion" was at hand, and the preparation was most thorough and devoted. Louise, the eldest, was admitted to the Holy Sacrament. The state of mind of Adrienne, the younger, was not suf ficiently satisfactory, and the important step was deferred for several years. Proposals of marriage were now offered

to the parents in behalf of the little ladies of twelve. M. de Noailles, the son of the Duc de Monchy, and nephew of the Duc d'Ayen, was proposed for the eldest daughter, and accepted by the parents-the future bride knowing nothing of the matter until a year later, a few months before the marriage. She already loved her cousin, however, and gladly became his wife at the age of fifteen. M. de Lafayette, a lad of fourteen, was proposed, at the same time, for Adrienne, the second daughter. The young suitor was strongly favored by M. d'Ayen, but, at first, positively rejected by Mme. d'Ayen. His great youth and his very large fortune, without parents to guide him, were considered as invincible objections by the anxious mother. A grave misunderstanding now took place between M. and Mme. d'Ayen on this subject. The breach lasted for a whole year. "Mme. d'Ayen will never yield; she has gone too far," said her friends. "You do not know Mme. d'Ayen," was the husband's answer. "She will never yield where she believes herself right; but convince her that she is in the wrong, and she will instantly yield with the docility of a child." Such proved to be the result. On nearer acquaintance with the young gentleman, she acknowledged her error, and not only accepted him as a son, but became very strongly attached to him from that moment. Both these marriages were very happy. The details relating to Mme. de Lafayette we defer to a second paper, devoted especially to her own life. At the interval of a few years, all the five daughters of Mme. d'Ayen were successively married to husbands with whom they lived happily. There was one exception, however: the third daughter, apparently a gentle, loving creature, was not appreciated by her first husband. He died early, of smallpox, and she married more happily the second time.

The education thus given to these five daughters by Mme. d'Ayen proved entirely successful. The elements of that education, pervading all its de

tails, were truth, love, and piety. What higher praise can be given to any mother, than such complete success in the education of her children must award to her? The same devoted affection, the same motherly love, was now given by Mme. d'Ayen to a wider circle. Not only the young wives and mothers, amid the duties and cares of their new positions, but sons-in-law and grandchildren, now shared fully in her tenderness. The husbands of her daughters appear to have been all warmly attached to her. In her salons of the Hôtel de Noailles she held a sort of motherly court, where all the young people gathered about her, with that filial homage so gracefully offered in French families. As a wife, she was less happy. The Duc d'Ayen, in every-day life, was more often abroad than at home. There was warm regard, confidence, and perfect esteem between the husband and wife; but the glow of personal affection appears to have become somewhat chilled on the part of M. d'Ayen. In moments of difficulty he was always at hand, attentive, considerate, and affectionate. But he sought his pleasures elsewhere than in his home. There may have been a want of conjugal tact on the lady's part. At any rate, while Mme. d'Ayen never reproached her husband, she accused herself of not having taken sufficient pains to please him in their earlier married life. This is singular, as her nature was so loving, and she lived on the most endearing and affectionate terms with a large circle of relatives, including stepmother, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, aunts, and cousins.

"The duty of vigilance over her servants was one of the most repugnant to her nature," says her daughter, “but, from principle, she labored to fulfil it. She was constantly trying to be useful to them, by good books or kind instructions. Nothing was more contrary to her disposition than untimely preaching; but at the right moment her charity was all ablaze in their behalf. She became almost a mother to them, and was devoted to them with a

zeal and a perseverance of which there are few examples. Her care of them in sickness was like that she gave to her own children. She would keep their secrets like those of her best friend. They all revered her, although there were times when they complained of a certain impatience, to which she yielded perhaps too often. Her femme de chambre mourned her as a mother; and her old valet de chambre became almost crazed by grief at her death."

"As regards her charity for the poor, on this point her conscience was singularly tender. She would not allow herself a single fancy, not even a journey of pleasure, or any superfluity whatever, fearing to rob the poor of their patrimony. Her very numerous alms brought her much consolation, but also some anxieties. Her intelligence and sound judgment were very conspicuous in her charitable works on her estates. Children and the infirm were more especially the objects of her pious cares. She observes, in her will, that charity to little children is an especial form of thanksgiving for the blessings which God bestows on our own children."

Such, during many years, was the life of this excellent woman, surrounded by a large family all tenderly attached to her, all revering her character and returning her warm affections. But a fatal change was now at hand. We make little allusion to politics. It is the sketch of a French home in the last century, and of the noble woman who was its soul, to which we would attract the reader's attention. As the political agitation about her increased, Mme. d'Ayen had many misgivings. To change of social position, loss of rank, or even entire reverse of fortune, she gave little thought. "I have seen her," writes her daughter, "often congratulate herself on the suppression of her own feudal privileges. But she dreaded the development of evil passions."

Ah, there we touch the weak point of the French Revolution! This humble-minded woman, living in the bright light of Christian truth, could see far

ther than the wisest statesmen of her country, who were philosophers only, The leaders in that Revolution had too much confidence in human nature. It was their error to believe that Liberty alone was needed for the full development of the higher qualities of that nature. They too soon learned, to their cost, that salutary restraints, as well as healthful freedom, are needed here on earth. There was, however, a moment of lull in the threatening storm. When the king accepted the new Constitution, all became hopeful. At that moment General Lafayette withdrew into private life, to the unspeakable joy of the anxious wife and mother. The whole family left Paris for the château of Chavaniac, among the mountains of Auvergne. Here Mme. d'Ayen paid them a visit. The journey to and fro, with the month passed in that old château, were among the happiest days of her later years. She had always delighted in the country; this was the strongest of all her tastes; her children frequently observed that, in the country, she was always more gay, more happy, than in town. November is not always the most agreeable season in the country, but those were happy weeks, passing delightfully to the family party. It was a joy to Mme. d'Ayen to see her son-in-law, General Lafayette, so simply happy with his wife and children, so dutiful, so affectionate to herself. There was perfect confidence and affection and esteem between all the different members of that household. Mme. d'Ayen went to church in the little village, and was delighted with the simple piety of the peasants. She enjoyed the society of Mme. de Chavaniac, the aged aunt, who had been as a mother to General Lafayette. The simple life in that peaceful country-home was just what she loved. She was thoroughly happy, full of sympathy for her daughter, and entering into all the little pleasures of her grandchildren. Those were her last happy hours on earth. When mother and daughter separated, at the gates of Chavaniac, it was never to meet again on earth.

VOL. VI.-14

One convulsion now followed another in the political world with fearful rapidity, and each more terrible than the last. All the old barriers were thrown. down one after the other, and none of sufficient strength to control the savage torrent of that terrible Revolution replaced them. In no civilized country, since Christ came on earth, have the evil passions of human nature assumed forms so fiend-like, for the same length of time, as those which swayed France during those fatal years. And yet, all this was the foul work of a small minority of the entire nation—an oligarchy worse than the most heartless of feudal times. The Hôtel de Noailles was near the Tuileries, near the Assemblée, near the Jacobins-at the very focus of the fierce struggle. M. d'Ayen, and his son-in-law, M. de Grammont, were both at the Tuileries on the fatal 10th of August; both escaped the massacre, though M. de Grammont was looked for among the dead. M. de Lafayette returned to the scene of action, with the hope of preventing crime; but he himself was put to the ban, and barely escaped with his life beyond the frontier. Many members of the family of Noailles had already left Francethe Vicomte de Noailles, and the two younger daughters of Mme. d'Ayen, with their husbands. As yet, no danger was anticipated for ladies; and Mme. d'Ayen herself, with her eldest daughter, the Vicomtesse de Noailles, remained in the neighborhood of Paris, occupied in the pious duty of watching over the aged grandparents of the family, the Maréchal de Noailles and his wife-both feeble and infirm, and the first dangerously ill. The Duc d'Ayen, who had gone to Switzerland, returned to protect them, and to share in their attentions to his aged parents. But he was soon compelled to conceal himself, and, rather later, to pass the frontier. In August, 1793, the old Maréchal died. His wife, who was very infirm, still needed the constant attentions of her daughters. The ladies-all three-decided to return to Paris, in spite of the earnest entreaties of Mme. de Lafay

ette that they would remain in the country.

In September they returned again to the Hôtel de Noailles.

In October, Mme. d'Ayen and her daughter were placed under arrest in their own house. They appear to have had, at first, little fear for themselves. The step just taken did not seriously alarm them. They were allowed to receive a few friends. The three young children of Mme. de Noailles were with them; and the tutor of the little boys, M. Grellet, an excellent man, proved a most faithful and devoted friend. By his assistance, a worthy priest visited the hôtel, and, at the risk of his life, performed Divine service there, and administered the Holy Communion. Human Reason was at that moment proclaimed the Deity of France! To be a Christian, was a crime worthy of death. Mme. d'Ayen, from her earliest married life, had been a frequent communicant, and constant in her attendance on the public services of her Church.

"In my early youth," writes her daughter, "I saw her commune every month, then every fortnight, later every Sunday, and sometimes in the week also. Her enjoyment of public worship was fervent; she fed on the Psalms with delight, and observed, on those days when the services were long, that she felt like David: 'One day in Thy courts is better than a thousand.' There was no littleness in her religion, no minutiæ in her piety." It is indeed a remarkable fact, that the piety of this excellent lady appears so free from many of the superstitions which are painfully manifest in the doctrine and practice of the Church of Rome.

Six months passed in this way. Four generations of the family were living together at the Hôtel de Noailles, all prisoners: the aged Maréchale de Noailles, Mme. d'Ayen, Mme. de Noailles the granddaughter, and the three little children of the last lady. In that homecircle, sanctified by sorrow, there was still much of sweetness. Mme. d'Ayen and her daughter divided their time between the care of the infirm Maré

chale and the children, to whom Mme. d'Ayen was as much devoted as their own mother. Once a week M. Carrichon, the brave priest, visited them. Cruelty and persecution, the most atrocious and bloodthirsty, were increasing on all sides. Women were now among

the victims. One day the ladies alluded to the fate which might await them. "If you are taken to the scaffold, and God gives me strength, I will be with you!" exclaimed the good priest. "Do you promise?" "Yes. And, that you may know me, I shall be disguised in a dark blue coat and a red waistcoat." Frequently, after this conversation, M. Carrichon was reminded of this solemn promise. The winter passed over. In the Spring they were officially examined on their actions and their thoughts! The answers, while strictly true, were prudent. This time they escaped. Shortly after, official agents came to make an inventory of their property. Ominous step! Mme. d'Ayen had still preserved some of her diamonds. Fearing she might be asked if she had concealed any thing, she fastened the jewels to her watch, as a chain. They were not seized. The same day the diamonds were hastily sold, and a partial payment received, sufficient to discharge all the debts of the ladies. A few hours later the jeweller was beheaded, and no further payment was made. They were now left entirely without means; a few old laces, and other trifles, were sold, and the small sum received from these was their last. M. Grellet, however, shared his slender means with them. Suddenly, in April, the week after Easter, the cruel officials appeared. The three ladies-the aged Maréchale, Mme. d'Ayen, and her daughter-were all ordered to the public prison. The little helpless children were bereft at one stroke of three generations of mothers, and driven from their paternal home. The anguish of that separation may be imagined. Human language has no words to describe it. The ladies were taken to the Luxembourg, where it is said they arrived calm and composed. Two of their nearest rela

« AnteriorContinuar »