Read CHAPTER XII of Calvert of Strathore, free online book, by Carter Goodloe, on ReadCentral.com.

THE FOURTH AND THE FOURTEENTH OF JULY

For the next few weeks Mr. Calvert had little time and, indeed, little inclination to see Adrienne. The discovery that he loved her had brought pain, not happiness with it. He felt the gulf too wide between them, both in circumstance and character, to be bridged. How could he, an untitled American, an unknown young gentleman of small fortune, pretend to the hand of one of the most beautiful, most aristocratic, and most capricious women in Paris? He smiled to himself as he mentally compared Adrienne with the simple young beauties of Virginia he had known with Miss Molly Crenshawe and Miss Peggy Gary and he wondered a little bitterly why he could not have fallen happily in love with some one of his own countrywomen, whose heart he could have won and kept, instead of falling a victim to the charms of a dazzling creature quite beyond his reach. With that clear good sense which was ever one of his most distinguishing traits, he fully comprehended the difficulties, the impossibility of a happy ending of his passion, and, having no desire to play the rôle of the disconsolate lover, he again determined to see as little of Adrienne as possible.

For a while circumstances favored this decision. The French government, being entirely absorbed in domestic affairs, Mr. Jefferson found himself with more leisure than he had known for some time, and, being enormously interested in the organization of the States-General, and realizing that their proceedings were of the first order of importance, he drove almost daily from Paris to Versailles to assist at their stormy deliberations. Mr. Calvert attended him thither at his express wish, for he had the young man’s diplomatic education greatly at heart, and desired him to profit by the debates in the Salle des Menus. In this way the young gentleman found his days completely filled, while the evenings were frequently as busily occupied in the preparation of letters for the American packet, dictated by Mr. Jefferson and narrating the day’s events. Of things to be written there was no lack. Day after day, through the hot months of May and June, events succeeded one another rapidly. Tempestuous debates among the noblesse, the clergy, and the tiers état, upon the question of the verification of their powers, separately and together, were followed by proposition and counter-proposition, by commissions of conciliation which did not conciliate, by royal letters commanding a fusion of the three orders, by sécessions from the nobility and clergy to the grimly determined and united tiers, by courtly intrigues at Marly for the King’s favor in behalf of the nobles, by royal séances and ruses which, instead of postponing, only hastened the evil hour, by the famous oath of the Tennis Court, and by the triumph of the third estate. And in this distracting clash of opposing political forces, amid this first crash and downfall of the ancient order of things, there passed, almost unnoticed, save by the weeping Queen and harassed King, who hung over his pillow, the last sigh, the last childish words of the Dauphin. The tired little royal head, which had been greeted eight years before with such acclamations of enthusiastic delight, dropped wearily and all unnoticed for the last time, happily ignorant of the martyr’s crown it had escaped. Calvert had the news from Madame de Montmorin when he went to pay his respects to her on the evening of the 3d of June, and in imagination he saw, over and over again, the lovely face of the Queen distorted with unavailing grief.

All these public occurrences which filled the hurrying days were reported in Mr. Jefferson’s long letters to General Washington, to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jay, to Mr. Madison, Mr. Carmichael, and other friends in America, whom he knew to be deeply interested in the trend of French affairs. Indeed, he knew fully whereof he wrote, for, although in that summer of ’89 the position of the United States in relation to Europe was anything but enviable, though we were deeply in debt and our credit almost gone, though England and Spain turned us the cold shoulder, though our enemies were diligently circulating damaging stories of the disunion, the bankruptcy, the agitation in American affairs, yet so friendly was the French government to us, so deep the personal respect and admiration for Mr. Jefferson as the representative of the infant republic, that he was consulted by the leaders of all parties and received the confidences of the most influential men of the day. So close, indeed, was his connection with the ministers in power that, during the early days of June and in pursuance of an idea which had occurred to him during a conversation with Lafayette, Mr. Short, and Monsieur de St. Etienne, he drew up a paper for the consideration of the King, which, if it had received the royal sanction, might have produced the best results. It was a charter of those rights which the King was willing, nay, glad, to grant, but it was Mr. Jefferson’s earnest conviction that Louis should come forward with this charter of his own free will and offer it to his people, to be signed by himself and every member of the National Assembly. But the King’s timidity and the machinations of Monsieur and the Comte d’Artois prevented this plan from coming to anything. Mr. Jefferson, thinking, perhaps, that his zeal had over-stepped his discretion, refused again to take an active part in the politics of the day, and declined the invitation of the Archbishop of Bordeaux to attend the deliberations of the committee for the “first drafting” of a constitution.

“My mission is to the King as Chief Magistrate of France,” said Mr. Jefferson to His Grace of Bordeaux, “and deeply as I am interested in the affairs of your country, my duties concern my own. But I have requested from Congress a leave of absence for a few months, that I may return to America and settle some important private business, and as General Washington and other friends will be only too anxious to hear a detailed and recent account of the progress of events here, I shall esteem it both my duty and pleasure to acquaint myself with them as fully as may be, without transcending the limits of my office.”

This leave of absence which Mr. Jefferson had solicited for some time was anxiously awaited, but packet after packet arrived without it. It had been his hope to receive the authority of Congress for his departure during the early spring, that he might return to Virginia, leaving affairs in the hands of Calvert and Mr. Short, and return before cold weather set in again, but the end of June was at hand and still no word from Congress.

As it was evident that Mr. Jefferson was not to get away from Paris for some time, he determined to celebrate the Fourth of July at the Legation with proper ceremony, and invited quite a little company to dinner for that day. Among the guests were Madame la Duchesse d’Azay, Adrienne, Monsieur and Madame de Montmorin, Monsieur and Madame de Lafayette, Madame de Tessé, Mr. Morris, Beaufort, Calvert, and Mr. Short.

The Duchess of Azay had accepted her invitation with characteristic brusqueness.

“I don’t approve of your Fourth of July, Monsieur Jefferson,” she said, “but I always approve of a good dinner, and your wines are so excellent that I dare say I shall drink your toasts, too.” “I promise you there shall be none to offend the most ardent royalist,” returned Mr. Jefferson, laughing at the old woman’s sturdy independence. And so she had come, and Madame de St. Andre with her, though Adrienne, too, was a stanch royalist, and had not been carried away by the popular enthusiasm for liberty and Monsieur de Lafayette which was spreading like wildfire through all ranks of Parisian society.

“I am here, not because I am so greatly in love with your fine American principles,” she said to Calvert, who was seated beside her at the table, “but because I like your Mr. Jefferson. For myself, I vastly prefer a king and a court, and I like titles and rank and power all of which is heresy in your American ears, is it not?” she asked, with a perverse look. “However, Henri’s enthusiasm is enough for us both,” she said, smiling a little scornfully at her brother, who, indeed, was quite wild with enthusiasm, and was on his feet drinking Lafayette’s toast of “Long life and prosperity to the United States!”

“Get up, Ned!” he says to Calvert. “We are drinking to your country! We ought to have a toast to Yorktown see, Mr. Morris is going to give it to us now ’The French at Yorktown!’”

But there was another toast still more vociferously greeted, for the long-delayed American packet having arrived three days before at Havre, Mr. Jefferson was that morning in receipt of letters from Mr. Jay and others containing news of the first importance. It was nothing less than the announcement of the election of General Washington to the first Presidency of the United States, and of his inauguration on the 13th of April in New York City.

“‘The oath was administered by Chancellor Livingston,’” says Mr. Jefferson, reading from Mr. Jay’s letter, “’in the presence of a vast concourse of people assembled to witness the inauguration. The President, appearing upon the balcony, bowed again and again to the cheering multitude, but could scarcely speak for emotion.’ ’Tis a strange and happy coincidence that we should have this news on this day. I give you ‘President Washington!’” says Mr. Jefferson, solemnly.

There were tears of joy in Lafayette’s eyes as he drank the toast.

“It makes me think of that last night at Monticello, Ned,” he said, turning to Calvert, “when we toasted General Washington and bade farewell to Mr. Jefferson.”

“’Tis a far cry from Paris to Monticello, Marquis,” said Calvert, smiling, “and ’tis a little strange that we should all be gathered here as we were there, discussing our dear General.”

“And so your demi-god, your General Washington, is elected to the Presidency,” said Adrienne, speaking to Calvert. “’Tis unnecessary to ask whether the choice meets with your approval.”

“There could be none other, Madame,” returned Calvert.

“You are a loyal admirer of General Washington’s, Monsieur. I see you know how to approve as well as to rebuke. ’Tis much pleasanter to be approved of than to be rebuked, as I know by personal experience,” said Adrienne, with a slight blush and a half glance at Calvert. She was so lovely as she spoke, there was such sunny laughter in her blue eyes, that Calvert gazed at her, lost in guilty wonder as to how he could ever have doubted this beautiful creature, how he could ever have condemned her by a thought. The inscrutable look in his serious eyes embarrassed her.

“Of what are you thinking, Monsieur?” she asked, after an instant’s silence.

“I was wondering who could have the audacity to rebuke Madame de St. Andre.”

“’Twas a very rash young gentleman from General Washington’s country,” returned Adrienne, smiling suddenly, “who, by his courage, saved Madame de St. Andre from the consequences of a foolish action, and who had the still greater courage to silently, but unmistakably, show his disapprobation of her.”

“’Tis impossible that he should be a fellow-countryman of mine, Madame,” said Calvert, smiling, too. “It would indeed be a rash and ill-considered person who could find fault with Madame de St. Andre.”

“Another compliment, Monsieur Calvert! That is the second one you have given me. If you are not more careful I shall begin to doubt your sincerity! I am not jesting, sir,” she says, suddenly serious. “I know not quite why I trust you so implicitly, but so it is, and, as sincerity is a rare virtue in our world, I should hate to lose my belief in yours. It takes no very keen vision to see my faults, sir. I recognize and deplore them,” and she looked at the young man in so winning and frank a fashion as she rose from the table, that Calvert thought to himself for the hundredth time that he had never seen anyone so incomparably beautiful and charming.

Although Paris was unbearably hot and dusty in that month of July, all the world stayed in town or drove no farther than Versailles to attend the meetings of the National Assembly. Political excitement and interest were intense, and were stimulated every day by the events taking place. But through it all the higher classes feasted and made merry, as though bent on literally obeying the biblical injunction. Mr. Morris, whose success in society continued prodigious, could scarce find the time for his numerous engagements, and was seen everywhere, often in company with Mr. Calvert, of whom he was extremely fond. Indeed, he urged upon Calvert the acceptance of many invitations which the latter would have declined, having an affectionate regard for the young man and a pride in the popularity which Mr. Calvert had won absolutely without effort and in spite of the lack of all brilliant social qualities. Wherever they went Madame de St. Andre was of the party. Perhaps ’twas this fact, rather than a wish to comply with Mr. Morris’s requests, that induced Calvert to accept the many invitations extended to him, and, in the constant delight and charm of Adrienne’s presence, his caution deserted him and he gradually found himself forgetting the wide gulf between them, of which he had thought so much at first, and eagerly watching for her wherever he went. He was engaged for innumerable pleasure-parties, dinners a la matelote, evenings with Madame de Chastellux, when the Abbe Delille read his verses, the theatre and opera with Gardell and Vestris, about whom all Paris was wild, and water-picnics on the Seine. In early June, at the express wish of the Duchesse d’Orléans, Mr. Calvert and Mr. Morris, with Madame d’Azay and Adrienne, made a visit to Her Highness at Raincy. The gardens and park of this old castle were so beautiful that Calvert would have liked nothing better than to linger in them with Adrienne for all the long summer day, but the Duchess, being very devout, demanded the presence of her guests in the chapel of the chateau to hear mass. Mr. Calvert read another sign of the times in the conduct of Monsieur de Segur and Monsieur de Cubieres during mass, who furnished immoderate amusement to Her Highness’s guests by putting lighted candles in the pockets of the Abbe Delille while he was on his knees.

“Truly an edifying example to the domestics opposite and the villagers worshipping below,” thought Calvert to himself. “If they but knew what triflers these beings are whom they look up to as their superiors, their respect would be transformed to contempt.” And this thought occurred to him again when, at dinner, which was served under a large marquise on the terrace of the chateau, a crowd of the common people gathered at a respectful distance and looked enviously at the exalted company as it dined.

It was at one of these numerous pleasure-parties with which Paris sought to banish care and anxiety that Mr. Calvert and Mr. Morris first heard the astounding news of Necker’s dismissal, which woke the city from its false trance of security. They were at the hotel of the Marechal de Castries, whither they had driven for breakfast, when his frightened secretary, calling him from the table, told him the news which he had just heard. Monsieur de Castries, containing himself with difficulty during the rest of the meal, at which was gathered a large and mixed company, drew the American gentlemen aside as soon as possible and confided to them the disastrous intelligence he had just received.

“The King sent Monsieur de la Luzerne with the message,” he said. “He found Necker at dinner, and, exacting a promise of absolute secrecy, delivered to him the King’s decree. Without a word Monsieur Necker proposed to his wife a visit to some friends, but went instead to his place at St. Ouen, and at midnight set out for Brussels.”

“What madness!” exclaimed Mr. Morris. “Does the King, then, not realize that he is no longer the power in the state? The National Assembly will not tolerate Necker’s dismissal. Will you not go instantly to Versailles and try to undo this fatal blunder of the King?” he asked. Monsieur de Castries shook his head despondingly.

“’Tis too late.”

“Come, Ned, we will go to Mr. Jefferson’s and see whether he has heard this terrible news,” said Mr. Morris, who was deeply affected by the intelligence.

Together they entered Mr. Morris’s carriage and drove toward the Legation. As they made their way along the boulevards, they were astonished to see pedestrians and carriages suddenly turn about and come toward them. In a few moments a troop of German cavalry, with drawn sabres, approached at a hand gallop, and, on reaching the Place Louis Quinze, Mr. Morris and Mr. Calvert found themselves confronted by an angry mob of several hundred persons, who had intrenched themselves among the great blocks of stone piled there for the new bridge building. At the same instant, on looking back, they perceived that the cavalry had faced about and were returning, so that they found themselves hemmed in between the troops and the menacing mob. Many other carriages were caught in the same cul-de-sac, and Calvert, looking out, saw the pale face of Madame de St. Andre at the window of her carriage beside him. Her coachman was trying in vain to get his horses through the crowd and was looking confoundedly frightened. In an instant Calvert was out of his carriage and at her coach-door.

“You must get in Mr. Morris’s carriage, Madame,” he says, briefly, holding the door open and extending a hand to Adrienne. At his tone of command, without a word, she stepped quickly from her coach into that of Mr. Morris.

“Heavens, Madame! are you alone in this mob?” asks Mr. Morris, in much concern.

“Yes I have just left my aunt in the rue St. Honore,” says Adrienne, sinking down on the cushions. Mr. Morris put his head out of the window.

“Drive on, Martin!” he calls out. “To Mr. Jefferson’s.” But it is impossible for the plunging horses to move, so dense is the mob and so threatening its attitude.

“They are arming themselves with stones,” he says, looking out again. “We are in a pretty pass between this insane mob and the cavalry, which is advancing!” Suddenly he bursts the door open and, standing on the coach-step, so that he is well seen, he calls out, “Drive on there, Martin! Who stops an American’s carriage in Paris?”

As he made his appearance at the coach-door a shout went up, and a man standing near and pointing to Mr. Morris’s wooden stump, cries out, “Make way for the American patriot crippled in the Revolution!” At his words a great cheer goes up, and Mr. Morris, scrambling back into the coach, bursts out into such a hearty laugh that Calvert, and Adrienne, too, in spite of her fright, cannot refrain from joining in it. The people fall back and a lane is formed, through which Martin urges his horses at a gallop.

“’Twill be a good story to tell Mr. Jefferson,” says Mr. Morris, when he can speak. “I think this wooden stump has never done such yeoman service as to-day.”

“If I am not mistaken, that was my friend Bertrand,” says Calvert, looking back at the man who had started the cheer for Mr. Morris.

They had scarce got through the mob when the cavalry, advancing, were met by a shower of stones.

“The captain is hit,” says Calvert, still looking out of the coach-window. Pale with fear, Adrienne laid her hand on his arm and Calvert covered it with one of his. In a few minutes they were out of sight of the fray and, driving as rapidly as possible up the Champs Elysees, were soon at the door of the Legation.

Mr. Jefferson was not at home, but in a few moments he came in with the account of having been stopped also at the Place Louis Quinze as he returned from a visit to Monsieur de Lafayette and a confirmation of the news regarding Necker’s dismissal.

“It is sufficiently clear with what indignation the people regard the presence of troops in the city,” he said, “and by to-morrow they will make known, I have no doubt, their equally bitter indignation at the removal of Necker. Affairs are coming rapidly to a crisis; the Palais Royal is this evening in a state of the wildest agitation, so d’Azay has just told me, and, indeed, the city is not safe, even on the boulevards. I shall take you back, Madame,” he went on, turning to Adrienne. “I believe the carriage of the American Minister will be treated with respect even by this insane mob.”

“A thousand thanks, Monsieur,” said Madame de St. Andre, rising, “and, as it is late, perhaps we had better go at once, although I hate to take you away from Monsieur Morris and Monsieur Calvert.”

“Oh, as for me, I am off to the Club to hear further details of the riot and afterward to a supper with Madame de Flahaut. And as for Ned, I am sure he would rather a thousand times escort you back to the rue St. Honore than to sit here chatting with an old fellow like myself,” said Mr. Morris, and he went off limping and laughing, leaving the others to follow quickly. For, in truth, it was late, and the disturbance seemed to be increasing instead of decreasing as the night wore on. Mr. Jefferson and Calvert turned into the Palais Royal on their way back, after leaving Adrienne safe in the rue St. Honore, and found it a seething mass of revolutionary humanity, as d’Azay had reported. The agitation increased all during the following day of the 13th, and on the 14th was struck the first great blow which resounded throughout France. Mr. Jefferson and Calvert, who, unconscious of the disturbance in the distant quarter of the Bastille, were calling at the hotel of Monsieur de Corny, had the particulars from that gentleman himself. He came in hurriedly, pale with emotion and fear and haggard with anxiety.

“Tis all over,” he says to Mr. Jefferson when he could speak. “How it has happened God only knows. A fearful crime has been committed. The deputation, of which I was one, advanced, under a flag of truce, to have speech with de Launay, Governor of the Bastile, when a discharge killed several men standing near us. We retired, and instantly the great throng of people there were, God knows, how many thousand wretches waiting there rushed forward, and are even now in possession of that impregnable fortification. ’Tis incredible how ’twas done.”

“And de Launay?” inquired Calvert.

“He has been beheaded and dragged to the Place de Greve,” says de Corny, gloomily. “Come, if you wish to see the work of destruction,” and he rose hurriedly.

Together the gentlemen entered Mr. Jefferson’s carriage, which was waiting, and were driven along the boulevards toward the Bastille. But the streets near the prison were so crowded with spectators and armed ruffians that they were finally forced to alight from the carriage, which was left in the Place Royale, and proceed on foot. As they passed Monsieur Beaumarchais’s garden, they came upon Mr. Morris and Madame de Flahaut, who had also driven thither and were leaning against the fence looking on at the work of demolition.

“You should have been here some moments ago,” said Mr. Morris. “Lafayette has just ridden by with the key of the Bastille, which has been given to him and which, he tells me, he proposes sending to General Washington. A strange gift!”

“Why strange?” inquired Mr. Jefferson. “’Tis an emblem of hard-earned liberty.”

“An emblem of madness,” said Mr. Morris, with a shrug. “However, I have witnessed some thrilling scenes in this madness. But an hour ago a fellow climbed upon the great iron gate and, failing to bring it down, implored his comrades to pull him by the legs, thus sustaining the rack. He had the courage and strength to hold on until his limbs were torn from the sockets. ’Twould make a great painting, and I shall suggest the idea to d’Angiviliers.”

“Do they know of this at Versailles?” asked Calvert.

“The Duc de Liancourt passed in his carriage half an hour ago,” said Mr. Morris, “on his way to Versailles to inform the King. Yesterday it was the fashion at Versailles not to believe that there were any disturbances at Paris. I presume that this day’s transactions will induce a conviction that all is not perfectly quiet! But, even with this awful evidence, the King is capable of not being convinced, I venture to say.” He was quite right in his surmise, and ’twas not until two o’clock in the morning that Monsieur de Liancourt was able to force his way into the King’s bed-chamber and compel His Majesty to listen to a narrative of the awful events of the day in Paris.

In the meantime crowds of the greatest ladies and gentlemen flocked to the Place de la Bastille to witness the strange and horrid scenes there enacting, rubbing elbows with the armed and drunken scum of the city, and only retiring when night hid the sight of it all from them. It was amid a very carnival of mad liberty, of flaring lights and hideous noises, of fantastic and terrible figures thrusting their infuriated countenances in at the coach-windows, with a hundred orders to halt and to move on, a hundred demands to know if there were arms in the carriage, that Mr. Jefferson and Calvert finally regained the Champs Elysees and the American Legation. With the next day the foreign troops were dismissed by order of the frightened King, and Paris had an armed Milice Bourgeoise of forty thousand men, at the head of which, to Mr. Jefferson’s satisfaction and Mr. Morris’s dismay, Lafayette was placed as commander-in-chief. From the 16th to the 18th of that fatal July twenty noble cowards, among them Monsieur de Broglie, Monsieur de St. Aulaire, six princes of the blood royal, including the Comte d’Artois and the Princes of Conde and Conti, fled affrighted before the first gust of the storm gathering over France.