Part 31 out of 33
"Madame," replied the doctor, "you are right, and God is too just to
add the horror of uncertainty to His rightful punishments. At that
moment when the soul quits her earthly body the judgment of God is
passed upon her: she hears the sentence of pardon or of doom; she
knows whether she is in the state of grace or of mortal sin; she sees
whether she is to be plunged forever into hell, or if God sends her
for a time to purgatory. This sentence, madame, you will learn at
the very instant when the executioner's axe strikes you; unless,
indeed, the fire of charity has so purified you in this life that you
may pass, without any purgatory at all, straight to the home of the
blessed who surround the throne of the Lord, there to receive a
recompense for earthly martyrdom."
"Sir," replied the marquise, "I have such faith in all you say that I
feel I understand it all now, and I am satisfied."
The doctor and the marquise then resumed the confession that was
interrupted the night before. The marquise had during the night
recollected certain articles that she wanted to add. So they
continued, the doctor making her pause now and then in the narration
of the heavier offences to recite an act of contrition.
After an hour and a half they came to tell her to go down. The
registrar was waiting to read her the sentence. She listened very
calmly, kneeling, only moving her head; then, with no alteration in
her voice, she said, "In a moment: we will have one word more, the
doctor and I, and then I am at your disposal." She then continued to
dictate the rest of her confession. When she reached the end, she
begged him to offer a short prayer with her, that God might help her
to appear with such becoming contrition before her judges as should
atone for her scandalous effrontery. She then took up her cloak, a
prayer-book which Father Chavigny had left with her, and followed the
concierge, who led her to the torture chamber, where her sentence was
to be read.
First, there was an examination which lasted five hours. The
marquise told all she had promised to tell, denying that she had any
accomplices, and affirming that she knew nothing of the composition
of the poisons she had administered, and nothing of their antidotes.
When this was done, and the judges saw that they could extract
nothing further, they signed to the registrar to read the sentence.
She stood to hear it: it was as follows:
"That by the finding of the court, d'Aubray de Brinvilliers is
convicted of causing the death by poison of Maitre Dreux d'Aubray,
her father, and of the two Maitres d'Aubray, her brothers, one a
civil lieutenant, the other a councillor to the Parliament, also of
attempting the life of Therese d'Aubray, her sister; in punishment
whereof the court has condemned and does condemn the said d'Aubray de
Brinvilliers to make the rightful atonement before the great gate of
the church of Paris, whither she shall be conveyed in a tumbril,
barefoot, a rope on her neck, holding in her hands a burning torch
two pounds in weight; and there on her knees she shall say and
declare that maliciously, with desire for revenge and seeking their
goods, she did poison her father, cause to be poisoned her two
brothers, and attempt the life of her sister, whereof she doth
repent, asking pardon of God, of the king, and of the judges; and
when this is done, she shall be conveyed and carried in the same
tumbril to the Place de Greve of this town, there to have her head
cut off on a scaffold to be set up for the purpose at that place;
afterwards her body to be burnt and the ashes scattered; and first
she is to be subjected to the question ordinary and extraordinary,
that she may reveal the names of her accomplices. She is declared to
be deprived of all successions from her said father, brothers, and
sister, from the date of the several crimes; and all her goods are
confiscated to the proper persons; and the sum of 4000 livres shall
be paid out of her estate to the king, and 400 livres to the Church
for prayers to be said on behalf of the poisoned persons; and all the
costs shall be paid, including those of Amelin called Lachaussee. In
Parliament, 16th July 1676."
The marquise heard her sentence without showing any sign of fear or
weakness. When it was finished, she said to the registrar, "Will
you, sir, be so kind as to read it again? I had not expected the
tumbril, and I was so much struck by that that I lost the thread of
The registrar read the sentence again. From that moment she was the
property of the executioner, who approached her. She knew him by the
cord he held in his hands, and extended her own, looking him over
coolly from head to foot without a word. The judges then filed out,
disclosing as they did so the various apparatus of the question. The
marquise firmly gazed upon the racks and ghastly rings, on which so
many had been stretched crying and screaming. She noticed the three
buckets of water
[Note: The torture with the water was thus administered. There were
eight vessels, each containing 2 pints of water. Four of these
were given for the ordinary, and eight for the extraordinary. The
executioner inserted a horn into the patient's mouth, and if he shut
his teeth, forced him to open them by pinching his nose with the
finger and thumb.]
prepared for her, and turned to the registrar--for she would not
address the executioner--saying, with a smile, "No doubt all this
water is to drown me in? I hope you don't suppose that a person of
my size could swallow it all." The executioner said not a word, but
began taking off her cloak and all her other garments, until she was
completely naked. He then led her up to the wall and made her sit on
the rack of the ordinary question, two feet from the ground. There
she was again asked to give the names of her accomplices, the
composition of the poison and its antidote; but she made the same
reply as to the doctor, only adding, "If you do not believe me, you
have my body in your hands, and you can torture me."
The registrar signed to the executioner to do his duty. He first
fastened the feet of the marquise to two rings close together fixed
to a board; then making her lie down, he fastened her wrists to two
other rings in the wall, distant about three feet from each other.
The head was at the same height as the feet, and the body, held up on
a trestle, described a half-curve, as though lying over a wheel. To
increase the stretch of the limbs, the man gave two turns to a crank,
which pushed the feet, at first about twelve inches from the rings,
to a distance of six inches. And here we may leave our narrative to
reproduce the official report.
"On the small trestle, while she was being stretched, she said
several times, 'My God! you are killing me! And I only spoke the
"The water was given: she turned and twisted, saying, 'You are
"The water was again given.
"Admonished to name her accomplices, she said there was only one man,
who had asked her for poison to get rid of his wife, but he was dead.
"The water was given; she moved a little, but would not say anything.
"Admonished to say why, if she had no accomplice, she had written
from the Conciergerie to Penautier, begging him to do all he could
for her, and to remember that his interests in this matter were the
same as her own, she said that she never knew Penautier had had any
understanding with Sainte-Croix about the poisons, and it would be a
lie to say otherwise; but when a paper was found in Sainte-Croix's
box that concerned Penautier, she remembered how often she had seen
him at the house, and thought it possible that the friendship might
have included some business about the poisons; that, being in doubt
on the point, she risked writing a letter as though she were sure,
for by doing so she was not prejudicing her own case; for either
Penautier was an accomplice of Sainte-Croix or he was not. If he
was, he would suppose the marquise knew enough to accuse him, and
would accordingly do his best to save her; if he was not, the letter
was a letter wasted, and that was all.
"The water was again given; she turned and twisted much, but said
that on this subject she had said all she possibly could; if she said
anything else, it would be untrue."
The ordinary question was at an end. The marquise had now taken half
the quantity of water she had thought enough to drown her. The
executioner paused before he proceeded to the extraordinary question.
Instead of the trestle two feet and a half high on which she lay,
they passed under her body a trestle of three and a half feet, which
gave the body a greater arch, and as this was done without
lengthening the ropes, her limbs were still further stretched, and
the bonds, tightly straining at wrists and ankles, penetrated the
flesh and made the blood run. The question began once more,
interrupted by the demands of the registrar and the answers of the
sufferer. Her cries seemed not even to be heard.
"On the large trestle, during the stretching, she said several times,
'O God, you tear me to, pieces! Lord, pardon me! Lord, have mercy
"Asked if she had nothing more to tell regarding her accomplices, she
said they might kill her, but she would not tell a lie that would
destroy her soul.
"The water was given, she moved about a little, but would not speak.
"Admonished that she should tell the composition of the poisons and
their antidotes, she said that she did not know what was in them; the
only thing she could recall was toads; that Sainte-Croix never
revealed his secret to her; that she did not believe he made them
himself, but had them prepared by Glazer; she seemed to remember that
some of them contained nothing but rarefied arsenic; that as to an
antidote, she knew of no other than milk; and Sainte-Croix had told
her that if one had taken milk in the morning, and on the first onset
of the poison took another glassful, one would have nothing to fear.
"Admonished to say if she could add anything further, she said she
had now told everything; and if they killed her, they could not
extract anything more.
"More water was given; she writhed a little, and said she was dead,
but nothing more.
"More water was given; she writhed more violently, but would say no
"Yet again water was given; writhing and twisting, she said, with a
deep groan, 'O my God, I am killed!' but would speak no more."
Then they tortured her no further: she was let down, untied, and
placed before the fire in the usual manner. While there, close to
the fire, lying on the mattress, she was visited by the good doctor,
who, feeling he could not bear to witness the spectacle just
described, had asked her leave to retire, that he might say a mass
for her, that God might grant her patience and courage. It is plain
that the good priest had not prayed in vain.
"Ah," said the marquise, when she perceived him, "I have long been
desiring to see you again, that you might comfort me. My torture has
been very long and very painful, but this is the last time I shall
have to treat with men; now all is with God for the future. See my
hands, sir, and my feet, are they not torn and wounded? Have not my
executioners smitten me in the same places where Christ was smitten?"
"And therefore, madame," replied the priest, "these sufferings now
are your happiness; each torture is one step nearer to heaven. As
you say, you are now for God alone; all your thoughts and hopes must
be fastened upon Him; we must pray to Him, like the penitent king, to
give you a place among His elect; and since nought that is impure can
pass thither, we must strive, madame, to purify you from all that
might bar the way to heaven."
The marquise rose with the doctor's aid, for she could scarcely
stand; tottering, she stepped forward between him and the
executioner, who took charge of her immediately after the sentence
was read, and was not allowed to leave her before it was completely
carried out. They all three entered the chapel and went into the
choir, where the doctor and the marquise knelt in adoration of the
Blessed Sacrament. At that moment several persons appeared in the
nave, drawn by curiosity. They could not be turned out, so the
executioner, to save the marquise from being annoyed, shut the gate
of the choir, and let the patient pass behind the altar. There she
sat down in a chair, and the doctor on a seat opposite; then he first
saw, by the light of the chapel window, how greatly changed she was.
Her face, generally so pale, was inflamed, her eyes glowing and
feverish, all her body involuntarily trembling. The doctor would
have spoken a few words of consolation, but she did not attend.
"Sir," she said, "do you know that my sentence is an ignominious one?
Do you know there is fire in the sentence?"
The doctor gave no answer; but, thinking she needed something, bade
the gaoler to bring her wine. A minute later he brought it in a cup,
and the doctor handed it to the marquise, who moistened her lips and
then gave it back. She then noticed that her neck was uncovered, and
took out her handkerchief to cover it, asking the gaoler for a pin to
fasten it with. When he was slow in finding a pin, looking on his
person for it, she fancied that he feared she would choke herself,
and shaking her head, said, with a smile, "You have nothing to fear
now; and here is the doctor, who will pledge his word that I will do
myself no mischief."
"Madame," said the gaoler, handing her the pin she wanted, "I beg
your pardon for keeping you waiting. I swear I did not distrust you;
if anyone distrusts you, it is not I."
Then kneeling before her, he begged to kiss her hand. She gave it,
and asked him to pray to God for her. "Ah yes," he cried, sobbing,
"with all my heart." She then fastened her dress as best she could
with her hands tied, and when the gaoler had gone and she was alone
with the doctor, said:--
"Did you not hear what I said, sir? I told you there was fire in my
sentence. And though it is only after death that my body is to be
burnt, it will always be a terrible disgrace on my memory. I am
saved the pain of being burnt alive, and thus, perhaps, saved from a
death of despair, but the shamefulness is the same, and it is that I
"Madame," said the doctor, "it in no way affects your soul's
salvation whether your body is cast into the fire and reduced to
ashes or whether it is buried in the ground and eaten by worms,
whether it is drawn on a hurdle and thrown upon a dung-heap, or
embalmed with Oriental perfumes and laid in a rich man's tomb.
Whatever may be your end, your body will arise on the appointed day,
and if Heaven so will, it will come forth from its ashes more
glorious than a royal corpse lying at this moment in a gilded casket.
Obsequies, madame, are for those who survive, not for the dead."
A sound was heard at the door of the choir. The doctor went to see
what it was, and found a man who insisted on entering, all but
fighting with the executioner. The doctor approached and asked what
was the matter. The man was a saddler, from whom the marquise had
bought a carriage before she left France; this she had partly paid
for, but still owed him two hundred livres. He produced the note he
had had from her, on which was a faithful record of the sums she had
paid on account. The marquise at this point called out, not knowing
what was going on, and the doctor and executioner went to her. "Have
they come to fetch me already?" said she. "I am not well prepared
just at this moment; but never mind, I am ready."
The doctor reassured her, and told her what was going on. "The man
is quite right," she said to the executioner; "tell him I will give
orders as far as I can about the money." Then, seeing the
executioner retiring, she said to the doctor, "Must I go now, sir?
I wish they would give me a little more time; for though I am ready,
as I told you, I am not really prepared. Forgive me, father; it is
the question and the sentence that have upset me it is this fire
burning in my eyes like hell-flames.
"Had they left me with you all this time, there would now be better
hope of my salvation."
"Madame," said the doctor, "you will probably have all the time
before nightfall to compose yourself and think what remains for you
"Ah, sir," she replied, with a smile, "do not think they will show so
much consideration for a poor wretch condemned to be burnt. That
does not depend on ourselves; but as soon as everything is ready,
they will let us know, and we must start."
"Madame," said the doctor, "I am certain that they will give you the
time you need."
"No, no," she replied abruptly and feverishly, "no, I will not keep
them waiting. As soon as the tumbril is at this door, they have only
to tell me, and I go down."
"Madame," said he, "I would not hold you back if I found you prepared
to stand before the face of God, for in your situation it is right to
ask for no time, and to go when the moment is come; but not everyone
is so ready as Christ was, who rose from prayer and awaked His
disciples that He might leave the garden and go out to meet His
enemies. You at this moment are weak, and if they come for you just
now I should resist your departure."
"Be calm; the time is not yet come," said the executioner, who had
heard this talk. He knew his statement must be believed, and wished
as far as possible to reassure the marquise. "There is no hurry, and
we cannot start for another two of three hours."
This assurance calmed the marquise somewhat, and she thanked the man.
Then turning to the doctor, she said, "Here is a rosary that I would
rather should not fall into this person's hands. Not that he could
not make good use of it; for, in spite of their trade, I fancy that
these people are Christians like ourselves. But I should prefer to
leave this to somebody else."
"Madame," said the doctor, "if you will tell me your wishes in this
matter, I will see that they are carried out."
"Alas!" she said, "there is no one but my sister; and I fear lest
she, remembering my crime towards her, may be too horrified to touch
anything that belonged to me. If she did not mind, it would be a
great comfort to me to think she would wear it after my death, and
that the sight of it would remind her to pray for me; but after what
has passed, the rosary could hardly fail to revive an odious
recollection. My God, my God! I am desperately wicked; can it be
that you will pardon me?"
"Madame," replied the doctor, "I think you are mistaken about Mlle,
d'Aubray. You may see by her letter what are her feelings towards
you, and you must pray with this rosary up to the very end. Let not
your prayers be interrupted or distracted, for no guilty penitent
must cease from prayer; and I, madame, will engage to deliver the
rosary where it will be gladly received."
And the marquise, who had been constantly distracted since the
morning, was now, thanks to the patient goodness of the doctor, able
to return with her former fervour to her prayers. She prayed till
seven o'clock. As the clock struck, the executioner without a word
came and stood before her; she saw that her moment had come, and said
to the doctor, grasping his arm, "A little longer; just a few
moments, I entreat."
"Madame," said the doctor, rising, "we will now adore the divine
blood of the Sacrament, praying that you may be thus cleansed from
all soil and sin that may be still in your heart. Thus shall you
gain the respite you desire."
The executioner then tied tight the cords round her hands that he had
let loose before, and she advanced pretty firmly and knelt before the
altar, between the doctor and the chaplain. The latter was in his
surplice, and chanted a 'Veni Creator, Salve Regina, and Tantum
ergo'. These prayers over, he pronounced the blessing of the Holy
Sacrament, while the marquise knelt with her face upon the ground.
The executioner then went forward to get ready a shirt, and she made
her exit from the chapel, supported on the left by the doctor's arm,
on the right by the executioner's assistant. Thus proceeding, she
first felt embarrassment and confusion. Ten or twelve people were
waiting outside, and as she suddenly confronted them, she made a step
backward, and with her hands, bound though they were, pulled the
headdress down to cover half her face. She passed through a small
door, which was closed behind her, and then found herself between the
two doors alone, with the doctor and the executioner's man. Here the
rosary, in consequence of her violent movement to cover her face,
came undone, and several beads fell on the floor. She went on,
however, without observing this; but the doctor stopped her, and he
and the man stooped down and picked up all the beads, which they put
into her hand. Thanking them humbly for this attention, she said to
the man, "Sir, I know I have now no worldly possessions, that all I
have upon me belongs to you, and I may not give anything away without
your consent; but I ask you kindly to allow me to give this chaplet
to the doctor before I die: you will not be much the loser, for it is
of no value, and I am giving it to him for my sister. Kindly let me
"Madame," said the man, "it is the custom for us to get all the
property of the condemned; but you are mistress of all you have, and
if the thing were of the very greatest value you might dispose of it
as you pleased."
The doctor, whose arm she held, felt her shiver at this gallantry,
which for her, with her natural haughty disposition, must have been
the worst humiliation imaginable; but the movement was restrained,
and her face gave no sign. She now came to the porch of the
Conciergerie, between the court and the first door, and there she was
made to sit down, so as to be put into the right condition for making
the 'amende honorable'. Each step brought her nearer to the
scaffold, and so did each incident cause her more uneasiness. Now
she turned round desperately, and perceived the executioner holding a
shirt in his hand. The door of the vestibule opened, and about fifty
people came in, among them the Countess of Soissons, Madame du
Refuge, Mlle. de Scudery, M, de Roquelaure, and the Abbe de Chimay.
At the sight the marquise reddened with shame, and turning to the
doctor, said, "Is this man to strip me again, as he did in the
question chamber? All these preparations are very cruel; and, in
spite of myself, they divert my thoughts, from God."
Low as her voice was, the executioner heard, and reassured her,
saying that they would take nothing off, only putting the shirt over
her other clothes.
He then approached, and the marquise, unable to speak to the doctor
with a man on each side of her, showed him by her looks how deeply
she felt the ignominy of her situation. Then, when the shirt had
been put on, for which operation her hands had to be untied, the man
raised the headdress which she had pulled down, and tied it round her
neck, then fastened her hands together with one rope and put another
round her waist, and yet another round her neck; then, kneeling
before her, he took off her shoes and stockings. Then she stretched
out her hands to the doctor.
"Oh, sir," she cried, "in God's name, you see what they have done to
me! Come and comfort me."
The doctor came at once, supporting her head upon his breast, trying
to comfort her; but she, in a tone of bitter lamentation, gazing at
the crowd, who devoured her with all their eyes, cried, "Oh, sir, is
not this a strange, barbarous curiosity?"
"Madame," said he, the tears in his eyes, "do not look at these eager
people from the point of view of their curiosity and barbarity,
though that is real enough, but consider it part of the humiliation
sent by God for the expiation of your crimes. God, who was innocent,
was subject to very different opprobrium, and yet suffered all with
joy; for, as Tertullian observes, He was a victim fattened on the
joys of suffering alone."
As the doctor spoke these words, the executioner placed in the
marquise's hands the lighted torch which she was to carry to Notre-
Dame, there to make the 'amende honorable', and as it was too heavy,
weighing two pounds, the doctor supported it with his right hand,
while the registrar read her sentence aloud a second time. The
doctor did all in his power to prevent her from hearing this by
speaking unceasingly of God. Still she grew frightfully pale at the
words, "When this is done, she shall be conveyed on a tumbril,
barefoot, a cord round her neck, holding in her hands a burning torch
two pounds in weight," and the doctor could feel no doubt that in
spite of his efforts she had heard. It became still worse when she
reached the threshold of the vestibule and saw the great crowd
waiting in the court. Then her face worked convulsively, and
crouching down, as though she would bury her feet in the earth, she
addressed the doctor in words both plaintive and wild: "Is it
possible that, after what is now happening, M. de Brinvilliers can
endure to go on living?"
"Madame," said the doctor, "when our Lord was about to leave His
disciples, He did not ask God to remove them from this earth, but to
preserve them from all sin. 'My Father,' He said, 'I ask not that
You take them from the world, but keep them safe from evil.' If,
madame, you pray for M. de Brinvilliers, let it be only that he may
be kept in grace, if he has it, and may attain to it if he has it
But the words were useless: at that moment the humiliation was too
great and too public; her face contracted, her eyebrows knit, flames
darted from her eyes, her mouth was all twisted. Her whole
appearance was horrible; the devil was once more in possession.
During this paroxysm, which lasted nearly a quarter of an hour,
Lebrun, who stood near, got such a vivid impression of her face that
the following night he could not sleep, and with the sight of it ever
before his eyes made the fine drawing which--is now in the Louvre,
giving to the figure the head of a tiger, in order to show that the
principal features were the same, and the whole resemblance very
The delay in progress was caused by the immense crowd blocking the
court, only pushed aside by archers on horseback, who separated the
people. The marquise now went out, and the doctor, lest the sight of
the people should completely distract her, put a crucifix in her
hand, bidding her fix her gaze upon it. This advice she followed
till they gained the gate into the street where the tumbril was
waiting; then she lifted her eyes to see the shameful object. It was
one of the smallest of carts, still splashed with mud and marked by
the stones it had carried, with no seat, only a little straw at the
bottom. It was drawn by a wretched horse, well matching the
The executioner bade her get in first, which she did very rapidly, as
if to escape observation. There she crouched like a wild beast, in
the left corner, on the straw, riding backwards. The doctor sat
beside her on the right. Then the executioner got in, shutting the
door behind him, and sat opposite her, stretching his legs between
the doctor's. His man, whose business it was to guide the horse, sat
on the front, back to back with the doctor and the marquise, his feet
stuck out on the shafts. Thus it is easy to understand how Madame de
Sevigne, who was on the Pont Notre-Dame, could see nothing but the
headdress of the marquise as she was driven to Notre-Dame.
The cortege had only gone a few steps, when the face of the marquise,
for a time a little calmer, was again convulsed. From her eyes,
fixed constantly on the crucifix, there darted a flaming glance, then
came a troubled and frenzied look which terrified the doctor. He
knew she must have been struck by something she saw, and, wishing to
calm her, asked what it was.
"Nothing, nothing," she replied quickly, looking towards him; "it was
"But, madame," said he, "you cannot give the lie to your own eyes;
and a minute ago I saw a fire very different from the fire of love,
which only some displeasing sight can have provoked. What may this
be? Tell me, pray; for you promised to tell me of any sort of
temptation that might assail you."
"Sir," she said, "I will do so, but it is nothing." Then, looking
towards the executioner, who, as we know, sat facing the doctor, she
said, "Put me in front of you, please; hide that man from me." And
she stretched out her hands towards a man who was following the
tumbril on horseback, and so dropped the torch, which the doctor
took, and the crucifix, which fell on the floor. The executioner
looked back, and then turned sideways as she wished, nodding and
saying, "Oh yes, I understand." The doctor pressed to know what it
meant, and she said, "It is nothing worth telling you, and it is a
weakness in me not to be able to bear the sight of a man who has ill-
used me. The man who touched the back of the tumbril is Desgrais,
who arrested me at Liege, and treated me so badly all along the road.
When I saw him, I could not control myself, as you noticed."
"Madame," said the doctor, "I have heard of him, and you yourself
spoke of him in confession; but the man was sent to arrest you, and
was in a responsible position, so that he had to guard you closely
and rigorously; even if he had been more severe, he would only have
been carrying out his orders. Jesus Christ, madame, could but have
regarded His executioners as ministers of iniquity, servants of
injustice, who added of their own accord every indignity they could
think of; yet all along the way He looked on them with patience and
more than patience, and in His death He prayed for them."
In the heart of the marquise a hard struggle was passing, and this
was reflected on her face; but it was only for a moment, and after a
last convulsive shudder she was again calm and serene; then she
"Sir, you are right, and I am very wrong to feel such a fancy as
this: may God forgive me; and pray remember this fault on the
scaffold, when you give me the absolution you promise, that this too
may be pardoned me." Then she turned to the executioner and said,
"Please sit where you were before, that I may see M. Desgrais." The
man hesitated, but on a sign from the doctor obeyed. The marquise
looked fully at Desgrais for some time, praying for him; then, fixing
her eyes on the crucifix, began to pray for herself: this incident
occurred in front of the church of Sainte-Genevieve des Ardents.
But, slowly as it moved, the tumbril steadily advanced, and at last
reached the place of Notre-Dame. The archers drove back the crowding
people, and the tumbril went up to the steps, and there stopped. The
executioner got down, removed the board at the back, held out his
arms to the marquise, and set her down on the pavement. The doctor
then got down, his legs quite numb from the cramped position he had
been in since they left the Conciergerie. He mounted the church
steps and stood behind the marquise, who herself stood on the square,
with the registrar on her right, the executioner on her left, and a
great crowd of people behind her, inside the church, all the doors
being thrown open. She was made to kneel, and in her hands was
placed the lighted torch, which up to that time the doctor had helped
to carry. Then the registrar read the 'amende honorable' from a
written paper, and she began to say it after him, but in so low a
voice that the executioner said loudly, "Speak out as he does; repeat
every word. Louder, louder!" Then she raised her voice, and loudly
and firmly recited the following apology.
"I confess that, wickedly and for revenge, I poisoned my father and
my brothers, and attempted to poison my sister, to obtain possession
of their goods, and I ask pardon of God, of the king, and of my
The 'amende honorable' over, the executioner again carried her to the
tumbril, not giving her the torch any more: the doctor sat beside
her: all was just as before, and the tumbril went on towards La
Greve. From that moment, until she arrived at the scaffold, she
never took her eyes off the crucifix, which the doctor held before
her the whole time, exhorting her with religious words, trying to
divert her attention from the terrible noise which the people made
around the car, a murmur mingled with curses.
When they reached the Place de Greve, the tumbril stopped at a little
distance from the scaffold. Then the registrar M. Drouet, came up on
horseback, and, addressing the marquise, said, "Madame, have you
nothing more to say? If you wish to make any declaration, the twelve
commissaries are here at hand, ready to receive it."
"You see, madame," said the doctor, "we are now at the end of our
journey, and, thank God, you have not lost your power of endurance on
the road; do not destroy the effect of all you have suffered and all
you have yet to suffer by concealing what you know, if perchance you
do know more than you have hitherto said."
"I have told all I know," said the marquise, "and there is no more I
"Repeat these words in a loud voice," said the doctor, "so that
everybody may hear."
Then in her loudest voice the marquise repeated--
"I have told all I know, and there is no more I can say."
After this declaration, they were going to drive the tumbril nearer
to the scaffold, but the crowd was so dense that the assistant could
not force a way through, though he struck out on every side with his
whip. So they had to stop a few paces short. The executioner had
already got down, and was adjusting the ladder. In this terrible
moment of waiting, the marquise looked calmly and gratefully at the
doctor, and when she felt that the tumbril had stopped, said, "Sir,
it is not here we part: you promised not to leave me till my head is
cut off. I trust you will keep your word."
"To be sure I will," the doctor replied; "we shall not be separated
before the moment of your death: be not troubled about that, for I
will never forsake you."
"I looked for this kindness," she said, "and your promise was too
solemn for you to think for one moment of failing me. Please be on
the scaffold and be near me. And now, sir, I would anticipate the
final farewell,--for all the things I shall have to do on the
scaffold may distract me,--so let me thank you here. If I am
prepared to suffer the sentence of my earthly judge, and to hear that
of my heavenly judge, I owe it to your care for me, and I am deeply
grateful. I can only ask your forgiveness for the trouble I have
given you." Tears choked the doctor's speech, and he could not
reply. "Do you not forgive me?" she repeated. At her words, the
doctor tried to reassure her; but feeling that if he opened his mouth
he must needs break into sobs, he still kept silent. The marquise
appealed to him a third time. "I entreat you, sir, forgive me; and
do not regret the time you have passed with me. You will say a De
Profundus at the moment of my death, and a mass far me to-morrow:
will you not promise?"
"Yes, madame," said the doctor in a choking voice; "yes, yes, be
calm, and I will do all you bid me."
The executioner hereupon removed the board, and helped the marquise
out of the tumbril; and as they advanced the few steps towards the
scaffold, and all eyes were upon them, the doctor could hide his
tears for a moment without being observed. As he was drying his
eyes, the assistant gave him his hand to help him down. Meanwhile
the marquise was mounting the ladder with the executioner, and when
they reached the platform he told her to kneel down in front of a
block which lay across it. Then the doctor, who had mounted with a
step less firm than hers, came and knelt beside her, but turned in
the other direction, so that he might whisper in her ear--that is,
the marquise faced the river, and the doctor faced the Hotel de
Ville. Scarcely had they taken their place thus when the man took
down her hair and began cutting it at the back and at the sides,
making her turn her head this way and that, at times rather roughly;
but though this ghastly toilet lasted almost half an hour, she made
no complaint, nor gave any sign of pain but her silent tears. When
her hair was cut, he tore open the top of the shirt, so as to uncover
the shoulders, and finally bandaged her eyes, and lifting her face by
the chin, ordered her to hold her head erect. She obeyed,
unresisting, all the time listening to the doctor's words and
repeating them from time to time, when they seemed suitable to her
own condition. Meanwhile, at the back of the scaffold, on which the
stake was placed, stood the executioner, glancing now and again at
the folds of his cloak, where there showed the hilt of a long,
straight sabre, which he had carefully concealed for fear Madame de
Brinvilliers might see it when she mounted the scaffold. When the
doctor, having pronounced absolution, turned his head and saw that
the man was not yet armed, he uttered these prayers, which she
repeated after him: "Jesus, Son of David and Mary, have mercy upon
me; Mary, daughter of David and Mother of Jesus, pray for me; my God,
I abandon my body, which is but dust, that men may burn it and do
with it what they please, in the firm faith that it shall one day
arise and be reunited with my soul. I trouble not concerning my
body; grant, O God, that I yield up to Thee my soul, that it may
enter into Thy rest; receive it into Thy bosom; that it may dwell
once more there, whence it first descended; from Thee it came, to
Thee returns; Thou art the source and the beginning; be thou, O God,
the centre and the end!"
The marquise had said these words when suddenly the doctor heard a
dull stroke like the sound of a chopper chopping meat upon a block:
at that moment she ceased to speak. The blade had sped so quickly
that the doctor had not even seen a flash. He stopped, his hair
bristling, his brow bathed in sweat; for, not seeing the head fall,
he supposed that the executioner had missed the mark and must needs
start afresh. But his fear was short-lived, for almost at the same
moment the head inclined to the left, slid on to the shoulder, and
thence backward, while the body fell forward on the crossway block,
supported so that the spectators could see the neck cut open and
bleeding. Immediately, in fulfilment of his promise, the doctor said
a De Profundis.
When the prayer was done and the doctor raised his head, he saw
before him the executioner wiping his face. "Well, sir," said he,
"was not that a good stroke? I always put up a prayer on these
occasions, and God has always assisted me; but I have been anxious
for several days about this lady. I had six masses said, and I felt
strengthened in hand and heart." He then pulled out a bottle from
under his cloak, and drank a dram; and taking the body under one arm,
all dressed as it was, and the head in his other hand, the eyes still
bandaged, he threw both upon the faggots, which his assistant
"The next day," says Madame de Sevigne, "people were looking for the
charred bones of Madame de Brinvilliers, because they said she was a
In 1814, M. d'Offemont, father of the present occupier of the castle
where the Marquise de Brinvilliers poisoned her father, frightened at
the approach of all the allied troops, contrived in one of the towers
several hiding-places, where he shut up his silver and such other
valuables as were to be found in this lonely country in the midst of
the forest of Laigue. The foreign troops were passing backwards and
forwards at Offemont, and after a three months' occupation retired to
the farther side of the frontier.
Then the owners ventured to take out the various things that had been
hidden; and tapping the walls, to make sure nothing had been
overlooked, they detected a hollow sound that indicated the presence
of some unsuspected cavity. With picks and bars they broke the wall
open, and when several stones had come out they found a large closet
like a laboratory, containing furnaces, chemical instruments, phials
hermetically sealed full of an unknown liquid, and four packets of
powders of different colours. Unluckily, the people who made these
discoveries thought them of too much or too little importance; and
instead of submitting the ingredients to the tests of modern science,
they made away with them all, frightened at their probably deadly
Thus was lost this great opportunity--probably the last--for finding
and analysing the substances which composed the poisons of Sainte-
Croix and Madame de Brinvilliers.
by Alexander Dumas, Pere
CELEBRATED CRIMES VOLUME 8 (of 8) Part 2
By Alexander Dumas, Pere
About the end of the reign of the Emperor Paul I--that is to say,
towards the middle of the first year of the nineteenth century--just
as four o'clock in the afternoon was sounding from the church of St.
Peter and St. Paul, whose gilded vane overlooks the ramparts of the
fortress, a crowd, composed of all sorts and conditions of people,
began to gather in front of a house which belonged to General Count
Tchermayloff, formerly military governor of a fair-sized town in the
government of Pultava. The first spectators had been attracted by
the preparations which they saw had been made in the middle of the
courtyard for administering torture with the knout. One of the
general's serfs, he who acted as barber, was to be the victim.
Although this kind of punishment was a common enough sight in St.
Petersburg, it nevertheless attracted all passers-by when it was
publicly administered. This was the occurrence which had caused a
crowd, as just mentioned, before General Tchermayloff's house.
The spectators, even had they been in a hurry, would have had no
cause to complain of being kept waiting, for at half-past four a
young man of about five-and-twenty, in the handsome uniform of an
aide-de-camp, his breast covered with decorations, appeared on the
steps at the farther end of the court-yard in front of the house.
These steps faced the large gateway, and led to the general's
Arrived on the steps, the young aide-de-camp stopped a moment and
fixed his eyes on a window, the closely drawn curtains of which did
not allow him the least chance of satisfying his curiosity, whatever
may have been its cause. Seeing that it was useless and that he was
only wasting time in gazing in that direction, he made a sign to a
bearded man who was standing near a door which led to the servants'
quarters. The door was immediately opened, and the culprit was seen
advancing in the middle of a body of serfs and followed by the
executioner. The serfs were forced to attend the spectacle, that it
might serve as an example to them. The culprit was the general's
barber, as we have said, and the executioner was merely the coachman,
who, being used to the handling of a whip, was raised or degraded,
which you will, to the office of executioner every time punishment
with the knout was ordered. This duty did not deprive him of either
the esteem or even the friendship of his comrades, for they well knew
that it was his arm alone that punished them and that his heart was
not in his work. As Ivan's arm as well as the rest of his body was
the property of the general, and the latter could do as he pleased
with it, no one was astonished that it should be used for this
purpose. More than that, correction administered by Ivan was nearly
always gentler than that meted out by another; for it often happened
that Ivan, who was a good-natured fellow, juggled away one or two
strokes of the knout in a dozen, or if he were forced by those
assisting at the punishment to keep a strict calculation, he
manoeuvred so that the tip of the lash struck the deal plank on which
the culprit was lying, thus taking much of the sting out of the
stroke. Accordingly, when it was Ivan's turn to be stretched upon the
fatal plank and to receive the correction he was in the habit of
administering, on his own account, those who momentarily played his
part as executioner adopted the same expedients, remembering only the
strokes spared and not the strokes received. This exchange of mutual
benefits, therefore, was productive of an excellent understanding
between Ivan and his comrades, which was never so firmly knit as at
the moment when a fresh execution was about to take place. It is
true that the first hour after the punishment was generally so full
of suffering that the knouted was sometimes unjust to the knouter,
but this feeling seldom out-lasted the evening, and it was rare when
it held out after the first glass of spirits that the operator drank
to the health of his patient.
The serf upon whom Ivan was about to exercise his dexterity was a man
of five or six-and-thirty, red of hair and beard, a little above
average height. His Greek origin might be traced in his countenance,
which even in its expression of terror had preserved its habitual
characteristics of craft and cunning.
When he arrived at the spot where the punishment was to take place,
the culprit stopped and looked up at the window which had already
claimed the young aide-de-camp's attention; it still remained shut.
With a glance round the throng which obstructed the entrance leading
to the street, he ended by gazing, with a horror-stricken shudder
upon the plank on which he was to be stretched. The shudder did not
escape his friend Ivan, who, approaching to remove the striped shirt
that covered his shoulders, took the opportunity to whisper under his
"Come, Gregory, take courage!"
"You remember your promise?" replied the culprit, with an indefinable
expression of entreaty.
"Not for the first lashes, Gregory; do not count on that, for during
the first strokes the aide-de-camp will be watching; but among the
later ones be assured I will find means of cheating him of some of
"Beyond everything you will take care of the tip of the lash?"
"I will do my best, Gregory, I will do my best. Do you not know that
"Alas! yes," replied Gregory.
"Now, then!" said the aide-de-camp.
"We are ready, noble sir," replied Ivan.
"Wait, wait one moment, your high origin," cried poor Gregory,
addressing the young captain as though he had been a colonel, "Vache
Vousso Korodie," in order to flatter him. "I believe that the lady
Vaninka's window is about to open!"
The young captain glanced eagerly towards the spot which had already
several times claimed his attention, but not a fold of the silken
curtains, which could be seen through the panes of the window, had
"You are mistaken, you rascal," said the aide-decamp, unwillingly
removing his eyes from the window, as though he also had hoped to see
it open," you are mistaken; and besides, what has your noble mistress
to do with all this?"
"Pardon, your excellency," continued Gregory, gratifying the aide-de-
camp with yet higher rank,--"pardon, but it is through her orders I
am about to suffer. Perhaps she might have pity upon a wretched
"Enough, enough; let us proceed," said the captain in an odd voice,
as though he regretted as well as the culprit that Vaninka had not
"Immediately, immediately, noble sir," said Ivan; then turning to
Gregory, he continued, "Come, comrade; the time has come."
Gregory sighed heavily, threw a last look up at the window, and
seeing that everything remained the same there, he mustered up
resolution enough to lie down on the fatal plank. At the same time
two other serfs, chosen by Ivan for assistants, took him by the arms
and attached his wrists to two stakes, one at either side of him, so
that it appeared as though he were stretched on a cross. Then they
clamped his neck into an iron collar, and seeing that all was in
readiness and that no sign favourable to the culprit had been made
from the still closely shut window, the young aide-de-camp beckoned
with his hand, saying, "Now, then, begin!"
"Patience, my lord, patience," said Ivan, still delaying the
whipping, in the hope that some sign might yet be made from the
inexorable window. "I have a knot in my knout, and if I leave it
Gregory will have good right to complain."
The instrument with which the executioner was busying himself, and
which is perhaps unknown to our readers, was a species of whip, with
a handle about two feet long. A plaited leather thong, about four
feet long and two inches broad, was attached to this handle, this
thong terminating in an iron or copper ring, and to this another band
of leather was fastened, two feet long, and at the beginning about
one and a half inches thick: this gradually became thinner, till it
ended in a point. The thong was steeped in milk and then dried in
the sun, and on account of this method of preparation its edge became
as keen and cutting as a knife; further, the thong was generally
changed at every sixth stroke, because contact with blood softened
However unwillingly and clumsily Ivan set about untying the knot, it
had to come undone at last. Besides, the bystanders were beginning
to grumble, and their muttering disturbed the reverie into which the
young aide-de-camp had fallen. He raised his head, which had been
sunk on his breast, and cast a last look towards the window; then
with a peremptory sign; and in a voice which admitted of no delay, he
ordered the execution to proceed.
Nothing could put it off any longer: Ivan was obliged to obey, and he
did not attempt to find any new pretext for delay. He drew back two
paces, and with a spring he returned to his place, and standing on
tiptoe, he whirled the knout above his head, and then letting it
suddenly fall, he struck Gregory with such dexterity that the lash
wrapped itself thrice round his victim's body, encircling him like a
serpent, but the tip of the thong struck the plank upon which Gregory
was lying. Nevertheless, in spite of this precaution, Gregory
uttered a loud shriek, and Ivan counted "One."
At the shriek, the young aide-de-camp again turned towards the
window; but it was still shut, and mechanically his eyes went back to
the culprit, and he repeated the word "One."
The knout had traced three blue furrows on Gregory's shoulders. Ivan
took another spring, and with the same skill as before he again
enveloped the culprit's body with the hissing thong, ever taking care
that the tip of it should not touch him. Gregory uttered another
shriek, and Ivan counted "Two." The blood now began to colour the
At the third stroke several drops of blood appeared; at the fourth
the blood spurted out; at the fifth some drops spattered the young
officer's face; he drew back, and wiped them away with his
handkerchief. Ivan profited by his distraction, and counted seven
instead of six: the captain took no notice. At the ninth stroke Ivan
stopped to change the lash, and in the hope that a second fraud might
pass off as luckily as the first, he counted eleven instead of ten.
At that moment a window opposite to Vaninka's opened, and a man about
forty-five or fifty in general's uniform appeared. He called out in
a careless tone, "Enough, that will do," and closed the window again.
Immediately on this apparition the young aide-de-camp had turned
towards his general, saluting, and during the few seconds that the
general was present he remained motionless. When the window had been
shut again, he repeated the general's words, so that the raised whip
fell without touching the culprit.
"Thank his excellency, Gregory," said Ivan, rolling the knout's lash
round his hand, "for having spared you two strokes;" and he added,
bending down to liberate Gregory's hand, "these two with the two I
was able to miss out make a total of eight strokes instead of twelve.
Come, now, you others, untie his other hand."
But poor Gregory was in no state to thank anybody; nearly swooning
with pain, he could scarcely stand.
Two moujiks took him by the arms and led him towards the serfs'
quarters, followed by Ivan. Having reached the door, however,
Gregory stopped, turned his head, and seeing the aide-de-camp gazing
pitifully at him, "Oh sir," he cried, "please thank his excellency
the general for me. As for the lady Vaninka," he added in a low
tone, "I will certainly thank her myself."
"What are you muttering between your teeth?" cried the young officer,
with an angry movement; for he thought he had detected a threatening
tone in Gregory's voice.
"Nothing, sir, nothing," said Ivan. "The poor fellow is merely
thanking you, Mr. Foedor, for the trouble you have taken in being
present at his punishment, and he says that he has been much
honoured, that is all."
"That is right," said the young man, suspecting that Ivan had
somewhat altered the original remarks, but evidently not wishing to
be better informed. "If Gregory wishes to spare me this trouble
another time, let him drink less vodka; or else, if he must get
drunk, let him at least remember to be more respectful."
Ivan bowed low and followed his comrades, Foedor entered the house
again, and the crowd dispersed, much dissatisfied that Ivan's
trickery and the general's generosity had deprived them of four
strokes of the knout--exactly a third of the punishment.
Now that we have introduced our readers to some of the characters in
this history, we must make them better acquainted with those who have
made their appearance, and must introduce those who are still behind
General Count Tchermayloff, as we have said, after having been
governor of one of the most important towns in the environs of
Pultava, had been recalled to St. Petersburg by the Emperor Paul, who
honoured him with his particular friendship. The general was a
widower, with one daughter, who had inherited her mother's fortune,
beauty, and pride. Vaninka's mother claimed descent from one of the
chieftains of the Tartar race, who had invaded Russia, under the
leadership of D'Gengis, in the thirteenth century. Vaninka's
naturally haughty disposition had been fostered by the education she
had received. His wife being dead, and not having time to look after
his daughter's education himself, General Tchermayloff had procured
an English governess for her. This lady, instead of suppressing her
pupil's scornful propensities, had encouraged them, by filling her
head with those aristocratic ideas which have made the English
aristocracy the proudest in the world. Amongst the different studies
to which Vaninka devoted herself, there was one in which she was
specially interested, and that one was, if one may so call it, the
science of her own rank. She knew exactly the relative degree of
nobility and power of all the Russian noble families--those that were
a grade above her own, and those of whom she took precedence. She
could give each person the title which belonged to their respective
rank, no easy thing to do in Russia, and she had the greatest
contempt for all those who were below the rank of excellency. As for
serfs and slaves, for her they did not exist: they were mere bearded
animals, far below her horse or her dog in the sentiments which they
inspired in her; and she would not for one instant have weighed the
life of a serf against either of those interesting animals.
Like all the women of distinction in her nation, Vaninka was a good
musician, and spoke French, Italian, German, and English equally
Her features had developed in harmony with her character. Vaninka
was beautiful, but her beauty was perhaps a little too decided. Her
large black eyes, straight nose, and lips curling scornfully at the
corners, impressed those who saw her for the first time somewhat
unpleasantly. This impression soon wore off with her superiors and
equals, to whom she became merely an ordinary charming woman, whilst
to subalterns and such like she remained haughty and inaccessible as
a goddess. At seventeen Vaninka's education was finished, and her
governess who had suffered in health through the severe climate of
St. Petersburg, requested permission to leave. This desire was
granted with the ostentatious recognition of which the Russian
nobility are the last representatives in Europe. Thus Vaninka was
left alone, with nothing but her father's blind adoration to direct
her. She was his only daughter, as we have mentioned, and he thought
her absolutely perfect.
Things were in this state in the-general's house when he received a
letter, written on the deathbed of one of the friends of his youth.
Count Romayloff had been exiled to his estates, as a result of some
quarrel with Potemkin, and his career had been spoilt. Not being
able to recover his forfeited position, he had settled down about
four hundred leagues from St. Petersburg; broken-hearted, distressed
probably less on account of his own exile and misfortune than of the
prospects of his only son, Foedor. The count feeling that he was
leaving this son alone and friendless in the world, commended the
young man, in the name of their early friendship, to the general,
hoping that, owing to his being a favourite with Paul I, he would be
able to procure a lieutenancy in a regiment for him. The general
immediately replied to the count that his son should find a second
father in himself; but when this comforting message arrived,
Romayloff was no more, and Foedor himself received the letter and
carried it back with him to the general, when he went to tell him of
his loss and to claim the promised protection. So great was the
general's despatch, that Paul I, at his request, granted the young
man a sub-lieutenancy in the Semonowskoi regiment, so that Foedor
entered on his duties the very next day after his arrival in St.
Although the young man had only passed through the general's house on
his way to the barracks, which were situated in the Litenoi quarter,
he had remained there long enough for him to have seen Vaninka, and
she had produced a great impression upon him. Foedor had arrived
with his heart full of primitive and noble feelings; his gratitude to
his protector, who had opened a career for him, was profound, and
extended to all his family. These feelings caused him perhaps to
have an exaggerated idea of the beauty of the young girl who was
presented to him as a sister, and who, in spite of this title,
received him with the frigidity and hauteur of a queen.
Nevertheless, her appearance, in spite of her cool and freezing
manner, had left a lasting impression upon the young man's heart, and
his arrival in St. Petersburg had been marked by feelings till then
never experienced before in his life.
As for Vaninka, she had hardly noticed Foedor; for what was a young
sub-lieutenant, without fortune or prospects, to her? What she
dreamed of was some princely alliance, that would make her one of the
most powerful ladies in Russia, and unless he could realise some
dream of the Arabian Nights, Foedor could not offer her such a
Some time after this first interview, Foedor came to take leave of
the general. His regiment was to form part of a contingent that
Field-Marshal Souvarow was taking to Italy, and Foedor was about to
die, or show himself worthy of the noble patron who had helped him to
This time, whether on account of the elegant uniform that heightened
Foedor's natural good looks, or because his imminent departure,
glowing with hope and enthusiasm, lent a romantic interest to the
young man, Vaninka was astonished at the marvellous change in him,
and deigned, at her father's request, to give him her hand when he
left. This was more than Foedor had dared to hope. He dropped upon
his knee, as though in the presence of a queen, and took Vaninka's
between his own trembling hands, scarcely daring to touch it with his
lips. Light though the kiss had been, Vaninka started as though she
had been burnt; she felt a thrill run through her, and she blushed
violently. She withdrew her hand so quickly, that Foedor, fearing
this adieu, respectful though it was, had offended her, remained on
his knees, and clasping his hands, raised his eyes with such an
expression of fear in them, that Vaninka, forgetting her hauteur,
reassured him with a smile. Foedor rose, his heart filled with
inexplicable joy, and without being able to say what had caused this
feeling, he only knew that it had made him absolutely happy, so that,
although he was just about to leave Vaninka, he had never felt
greater happiness in his life.
The young man left dreaming golden dreams; for his future, be it
gloomy or bright, was to be envied. If it ended in a soldier's
grave, he believed he had seen in Vaninka's eyes that she would mourn
him; if his future was glorious, glory would bring him back to St.
Petersburg in triumph, and glory is a queen, who works miracles for
The army to which the young officer belonged crossed Germany,
descended into Italy by the Tyrolese mountains, and entered Verona on
the 14th of April 1799. Souvarow immediately joined forces with
General Melas, and took command of the two armies. General Chasteler
next day suggested that they should reconnoitre. Souvarow, gazing at
him with astonishment, replied, "I know of no other way of
reconnoitring the enemy than by marching upon him and giving him
As a matter of fact Souvarow was accustomed to this expeditious sort
of strategy: through it he had defeated the Turks at Folkschany and
Ismailoff; and he had defeated the Poles, after a few days' campaign,
and had taken Prague in less than four hours. Catherine, out of
gratitude, had sent her victorious general a wreath of oak-leaves,
intertwined with precious stones, and worth six hundred thousand
roubles, a heavy gold field-marshal's baton encrusted with diamonds;
and had created him a field-marshal, with the right of choosing a
regiment that should bear his name from that time forward. Besides,
when he returned to Russia, she gave him leave of absence, that he
might take a holiday at a beautiful estate she had given him,
together with the eight thousand serfs who lived upon it.
What a splendid example for Foedor! Souvarow, the son of a humble
Russian officer, had been educated at the ordinary cadets' training
college, and had left it as a sub-lieutenant like himself. Why
should there not be two Souvarows in the same century?
Souvarow arrived in Italy preceded by an immense reputation;
religious, strenuous, unwearied, impassible, loving with the
simplicity of a Tartar and fighting with the fury of a Cossack, he
was just the man required to continue General Melas's successes over
the soldiers of the Republic, discouraged as they had been by the
weak vacillations of Scherer.
The Austro-Russian army of one hundred thousand men was opposed by
only twenty-nine or thirty thousand French. Souvarow began as usual
with a thundering blow. On 20th April he appeared before Brescia,
which made a vain attempt at resistance; after a cannonade of about
half an hour's duration, the Preschiera gate was forced, and the
Korsakow division, of which Foedor's regiment formed the vanguard,
charged into the town, pursuing the garrison, which only consisted of
twelve hundred men, and obliged them to take refuge in the citadel.
Pressed with an impetuosity the French were not accustomed to find in
their enemies, and seeing that the scaling ladders were already in
position against the ramparts, the captain Boucret wished to come to
terms; but his position was too precarious for him to obtain any
conditions from his savage conquerors, and he and his soldiers were
made prisoners of war.
Souvarow was experienced enough to know how best to profit by
victory; hardly master of Brescia, the rapid occupation of which had
discouraged our army anew, he ordered General Kray to vigorously
press on the siege of Preschiera. General Kray therefore established
his headquarters at Valeggio, a place situated at an equal distance
between Preschiera and Mantua, and he extended from the Po to the
lake of Garda, on the banks of the Mencio, thus investing the two
cities at the same time.
Meanwhile the commander-in-chief had advanced, accompanied by the
larger part of his forces, and had crossed the Oglio in two columns:
he launched one column, under General Rosenberg, towards Bergamo, and
the other, with General Melas in charge, towards the Serio, whilst a
body of seven or eight thousand men, commanded by General Kaim and
General Hohenzollern, were directed towards Placentia and Cremona,
thus occupying the whole of the left bank of the Po, in such a manner
that the Austro-Russian army advanced deploying eighty thousand men
along a front of forty-five miles.
In view of the forces which were advancing, and which were three
times as large as his own, Scherer beat a retreat all along the line.
He destroyed the bridges over the Adda, as he did not consider that
he was strong enough to hold them, and, having removed his
headquarters to Milan, he awaited there the reply to a despatch which
he had sent to the Directory, in which, tacitly acknowledging his
incapacity, he tendered his resignation. As the arrival of his
successor was delayed, and as Souvarow continued to advance, Scherer,
more and more terrified by the responsibility which rested upon him,
relinquished his command into the hands of his most able lieutenant.
The general chosen by him was Moreau, who was again about to fight
those Russians in whose ranks he was destined to die at last.
Moreau's unexpected nomination was proclaimed amidst the acclamation
of the soldiers. He had been called the French Fabius, on account of
his magnificent campaign on the Rhine. He passed his whole army in
review, saluted by the successive acclamations of its different
divisions, which cried, "Long live Moreau! Long live the saviour of
the army of Italy!" But however great this enthusiasm, it did not
blind Moreau to the terrible position in which he found himself. At
the risk of being out-flanked, it was necessary for him to present a
parallel line to that of the Russian army, so that, in order to face
his enemy, he was obliged to extend his line from Lake Lecco to
Pizzighitone--that is to say, a distance of fifty miles. It is true
that he might have retired towards Piedmont and concentrated his
troops at Alexandria, to await there the reinforcements the Directory
had promised to send him. But if he had done this, he would have
compromised the safety of the army at Naples, and have abandoned it,
isolated as it was, to the mercy of the enemy. He therefore resolved
to defend the passage of the Adda as long as possible, in order to
give the division under Dessolles, which was to be despatched to him
by Massena, time to join forces with him and to defend his left,
whilst Gauthier, who had received orders to evacuate Tuscany and to
hasten with forced marches to his aid, should have time to arrive and
protect his right. Moreau himself took the centre, and personally
defended the fortified bridge of Cassano; this bridge was protected
by the Ritorto Canal, and he also defended it with a great deal of
artillery and an entrenched vanguard. Besides, Moreau, always as
prudent as brave, took every precaution to secure a retreat, in case
of disaster, towards the Apennines and the coast of Genoa. Hardly
were his dispositions completed before the indefatigable Souvarow
entered Triveglio. At the same time as the Russian commander-in-
chief arrived at this last town, Moreau heard of the surrender of
Bergamo and its castle, and on 23rd April he saw the heads of the
columns of the allied army.
The same day the Russian general divided his troops into three strong
columns, corresponding to the three principal points in the French
line, each column numerically more than double the strength of those
to whom they were opposed. The right column, led by General
Wukassowich, advanced towards Lake Lecco, where General Serrurier
awaited it. The left column, under the command of Melas, took up its
position in front of the Cassano entrenchments; and the Austrian
division, under Generals Zopf and Ott, which formed the centre,
concentrated at Canonia, ready at a given moment to seize Vaprio.
The Russian and Austrian troops bivouacked within cannon-shot of the
That evening, Foedor, who with his regiment formed part of
Chasteler's division, wrote to General Tchermayloff:
"We are at last opposite the French, and a great battle must take
place to-morrow morning; tomorrow evening I shall be a lieutenant or
Next morning, 26th April, cannon resounded at break of day from the
extremities of the lines; on our left Prince Bagration's grenadiers
attacked us, on our right General Seckendorff, who had been detached
from the camp of Triveglio, was marching on Crema.
These two attacks met with very different success. Bagration's
grenadiers were repulsed with terrible loss, whilst Seckendorff, on
the contrary, drove the French out of Crema, and pushed forward
towards the bridge of Lodi. Foedor's predictions were falsified: his
portion of the army did nothing the whole day; his regiment remained
motionless, waiting for orders that did not come.
Souvarow's arrangements were not yet quite complete, the night was
needed for him to finish them. During the night, Moreau, having
heard of Seckendorff's success on his extreme right, sent an order to
Serrurier commanding him to leave at Lecco, which was an easy post to
defend, the 18th light brigade and a detachment of dragoons only, and
to draw back with the rest of his troops towards the centre.
Serrurier received this order about two o'clock in the morning, and
executed it immediately.
On their side the Russians had lost no time, profiting by the
darkness of the night. General Wukassowich had repaired the bridge
at Brevio, which had been destroyed by the French, whilst General
Chasteler had built another bridge two miles below the castle of
Trezzo. These two bridges had been, the one repaired and the other
built, without the French outposts having the slightest suspicion of
what was taking place.
Surprised at two o'clock in the morning by two Austrian divisions,
which, concealed by the village of San Gervasio, had reached the
right bank of the Adda without their being discovered, the soldiers
defending the castle of Trezzo abandoned it and beat a retreat. The
Austrians pursued them as far as Pozzo, but there the French suddenly
halted and faced about, for General Serrurier was at Pozzo, with the
troops he had brought from Lecco. He heard the cannonade behind him,
immediately halted, and, obeying the first law of warfare, he marched
towards the noise and smoke. It was therefore through him that the
garrison of Trezzo rallied and resumed the offensive. Serrurier sent
an aide-de-Camp to Moreau to inform him of the manoeuvre he had
thought proper to execute.
The battle between the French and Austrian troops raged with
incredible fury. Bonaparte's veterans, during their first Italian
campaigns, had adopted a custom which they could not renounce: it was
to fight His Imperial Majesty's subjects wherever they found them.
Nevertheless, so great was the numerical superiority of the allies,
that our troops had begun to retreat, when loud shouts from the
rearguard announced that reinforcements had arrived. It was General
Grenier, sent by Moreau, who arrived with his division at the moment
when his presence was most necessary.
One part of the new division reinforced the centre column, doubling
its size; another part was extended upon the left to envelop the
enemy. The drums beat afresh down the whole line, and our grenadiers
began again to reconquer this battle field already twice lost and
won. But at this moment the Austrians were reinforced by the Marquis
de Chasteler and his division, so that the numerical superiority was
again with the enemy. Grenier drew back his wing to strengthen the
centre, and Serrurier, preparing for retreat in case of disaster,
fell back on Pozzo, where he awaited the enemy. It was here that the
battle raged most fiercely: thrice the village of Pozzo was taken and
re-taken, until at last, attacked for the fourth time by a force
double their own in numbers, the French were obliged to evacuate it.
In this last attack an Austrian colonel was mortally wounded, but, on
the other hand, General Beker, who commanded the French rearguard,
refused to retreat with his soldiers, and maintained his ground with
a few men, who were slain as they stood; he was at length obliged to
give up his sword to a young Russian officer of the Semenofskoi
regiment, who, handing over his prisoner to his own soldiers,
returned immediately to the combat.
The two French generals had fixed on the village of Vaprio as a
rallying-place, but at the moment when our troops were thrown into
disorder through the evacuation of Pozzo, the Austrian cavalry
charged heavily, and Serrurier, finding himself separated from his
colleague, was obliged to retire with two thousand five hundred men
to Verderio, whilst Grenier, having reached the appointed place,
Vaprio, halted to face the enemy afresh.
During this time a terrible fight was taking place in the centre.
Melas with eighteen to twenty thousand men had attacked the fortified
posts at the head of the bridge of Cassano and the Ritorto Canal.
About seven o'clock in the morning, when Moreau had weakened himself
by despatching Grenier and his division, Melas, leading three
battalions of Austrian grenadiers, had attacked the fortifications,
and for two hours there was terrible carnage; thrice repulsed, and
leaving more than fifteen hundred men at the base of the
fortifications, the Austrians had thrice returned to the attack, each
time being reinforced by fresh troops, always led on and encouraged
by Melas, who had to avenge his former defeats. At length, having
been attacked for the fourth time, forced from their entrenchments,
and contesting the ground inch by inch, the French took shelter
behind their second fortifications, which defended the entrance to
the bridge itself: here they were commanded by Moreau in person.
There, for two more hours, a hand-to-hand struggle took place, whilst
the terrible artillery belched forth death almost muzzle to muzzle.
At last the Austrians, rallying for a last time, advanced at the
point of the bayonet, and; lacking either ladders or fascines, piled
the bodies of their dead comrades against the fortifications, and
succeeded in scaling the breastworks. There was not a moment to be
lost. Moreau ordered a retreat, and whilst the French were
recrossing the Adda, he protected their passage in person with a
single battalion of grenadiers, of whom at the end of half an hour
not more than a hundred and twenty men remained; three of his aides-
de-camp were killed at his side. This retreat was accomplished
without disorder, and then Moreau himself retired, still fighting the
enemy, who set foot on the bridge as soon as he reached the other
bank. The Austrians immediately rushed forward to capture him, when
suddenly a terrible noise was heard rising above the roar of the
artillery; the second arch of the bridge was blown into the air,
carrying with it all those who were standing on the fatal spot. The
armies recoiled, and into the empty space between them fell like rain
a debris of stones and human beings. But at this moment, when Moreau
had succeeded in putting a momentary obstacle between himself and
Melas, General Grenier's division arrived in disorder, after having
been forced to evacuate Vaprio, pursued by the Austro-Russians under
Zopf, Ott, and Chasteler. Moreau ordered a change of front, and
faced this new enemy, who fell upon him when he least expected them;
he succeeded in rallying Grenier's troops and in re-establishing the
battle. But whilst his back was turned Melas repaired the bridge and
crossed the river; thus Moreau found himself attacked frontally, in
the rear, and on his two flanks, by forces three times larger than
his own. It was then that all the officers who surrounded him begged
him to retreat, for on the preservation of his person depended the
preservation of Italy for France. Moreau refused for some time, for
he knew the awful consequences of the battle he had just lost, and he
did not wish to survive it, although it had been impossible for him
to win it. At last a chosen band surrounded him, and, forming a
square, drew back, whilst the rest of the army sacrificed themselves
to cover his retreat; for Moreau's genius was looked upon as the sole
hope that remained to them.
The battle lasted nearly three hours longer, during which the
rearguard of the army performed prodigies of valour. At length
Melas, seeing that the enemy had escaped him, and believing that his
troops, tired by the stubborn fight, needed rest, gave orders that
the fighting should cease. He halted on the left bank of the Adda,
encamping his army in the villages of Imago, Gorgonzola, and Cassano,
and remained master of the battlefield, upon which we had left two
thousand five hundred dead, one hundred pieces of cannon, and twenty
That night Souvarow invited General Becker to supper with him, and
asked him by whom he had been taken prisoner. Becker replied that it
was a young officer belonging to the regiment which had first entered
Pozzo. Souvarow immediately inquired what regiment this was, and
discovered that it was the Semenofskoi; he then ordered that
inquiries should be made to ascertain the young officer's name.
Shortly afterwards Sub-Lieutenant Foedor Romayloff was announced. He
presented General Becker's sword to Souvarow, who invited him to
remain and to have supper with his prisoner.
Next day Foedor wrote to his protector: "I have kept my word. I am a
lieutenant, and Field-Marshal Souvarow has requested his Majesty
Paul I to bestow upon me the order of Saint Vladimir."
On 28th of April, Souvarow entered Milan, which Moreau had just
abandoned in order to retreat beyond Tesino. The following
proclamation was by his order posted on all the walls of the capital;
it admirably paints the spirit of the Muscovite:
"The victorious army of the Apostolical and Roman Emperor is here; it
has fought solely for the restoration of the Holy Faith,--the clergy,
nobility, and ancient government of Italy. People, join us for God
and the Faith, for we have arrived with an army at Milan and
Placentia to assist you!"
The dearly bought victories of Trebia and Novi succeeded that of
Cassano, and left Souvarow so much weakened that he was unable to
profit by them. Besides, just when the Russian general was about to
resume his march, a new plan of campaign arrived, sent by the Aulic
Council at Vienna. The Allied Powers had decided upon the invasion
of France, and had fixed the route each general must follow in order
to accomplish this new project. It way decided that Souvarow should
invade France by Switzerland, and that the arch-duke should yield him
his positions and descend on the Lower Rhine.
The troops with which Souvarow was to operate against Massena from
this time were the thirty thousand Russians he had with him, thirty
thousand others detached from the reserve army commanded by Count
Tolstoy in Galicia, who were to be led to join him in Switzerland by
General Korsakoff, about thirty thousand Austrians under General
Hotze, and lastly, five or six thousand French emigrants under the
Prince de Conde in all, an army of ninety or ninety-five thousand
men. The Austrians were to oppose Moreau and Macdonald.
Foedor had been wounded when entering Novi, but Souvarow had rewarded
him with a second cross, and the rank of captain hastened his
convalescence, so that the young officer, more happy than proud of
the new rank he had received, was in a condition to follow the army,
when on 13th September it moved towards Salvedra and entered the
valley of Tesino.
So far all had gone well, and as long as they remained in the rich
and beautiful Italian plains, Suovarow had nothing but praise for the
courage and devotion of his soldiers. But when to the fertile fields
of Lombardy, watered by its beautiful river, succeeded the rough ways
of the Levantine, and when the lofty summits of the St. Gothard,
covered with the eternal snows, rose before them, their enthusiasm
was quenched, their energy disappeared, and melancholy forebodings
filled the hearts of these savage children of the North.
Unexpected grumblings ran through the ranks; then suddenly the
vanguard stopped, and declared that it would go no farther. In vain
Foedor, who commanded a company, begged and entreated his own men to
set an example by continuing the march: they threw down their arms,
and lay down beside them. Just as they had given this proof of
insubordination, fresh murmurs, sounding like an approaching storm,
rose from the rear of the army: they were caused by the sight of
Souvarow, who was riding from the rear to the vanguard, and who
arrived at the front accompanied by this terrible proof of mutiny and
insubordination. When he reached the head of the column, the
murmurings had developed into imprecations.
Then Souvarow addressed his soldiers with that savage eloquence to
which he owed the miracles he had effected with them, but cries of
"Retreat! Retreat!" drowned his voice. Then he chose out the most
mutinous, and had them thrashed until they were overcome by this
shameful punishment: But the thrashings had no more influence than
the exhortation, and the shouts continued. Souvarow saw that all was
lost if he did not employ some powerful and unexpected means of
regaining the mutineers. He advanced towards Foedor. "Captain,"
said he, "leave these fools here, take eight non-commissioned
officers and dig a grave." Foedor, astonished, gazed at his general
as though demanding an explanation of this strange order. "Obey
orders," said Souvarow.
Foedor obeyed, and the eight men set to work; and ten minutes later
the grave was dug, greatly to the astonishment of the whole army,
which had gathered in a semicircle on the rising slopes of the two
hills which bordered the road, standing as if on the steps of a huge
Souvarow dismounted from his horse, broke his sword in two and threw
it into the grave, detached his epaulets one by one and threw them
after his sword, dragged off the decorations which covered his breast
and cast these after the sword and epaulets, and then, stripping
himself naked, he lay down in the grave himself, crying in a loud
"Cover me with earth! Leave your general here. You are no longer my
children, and I am no longer your father; nothing remains to me but
At these strange words, which were uttered in so powerful a voice
that they were heard by the whole army, the Russian grenadiers threw
themselves weeping into the grave, and, raising their general, asked
pardon of him, entreating him to lead them again against the enemy.
"At last," cried Souvarow, "I recognise my children again. To the
Not cries but yells of joy greeted his words. Souvarav dressed
himself again, and whilst he was dressing the leaders of the mutiny
crept in the dust to kiss his feet. Then, when his epaulets were
replaced on his shoulders, and when his decorations again shone on
his breast, he remounted his horse, followed by the army, the
soldiers swearing with one voice that they would all die rather than
abandon their father.
The same day Souvarow attacked Aerolo; but his luck had turned: the
conqueror of Cassano, Trebia, and Novi had left his good-fortune
behind in the plains of Italy. For twelve hours six hundred French
opposed three thousand Russian grenadiers beneath the walls of the
town, and so successfully that night fell without Souvarow being able
to defeat them. Next day he marched the whole of his troops against
this handful of brave men, but the sky clouded over and the wind.
blew a bitter rain into the faces of the Russians; the French
profited by this circumstance to beat a retreat, evacuating the
valley of Ursern, crossing the Reuss, and taking up their position on
the heights of the Furka and Grimsel. One portion of the Russian
army's design had been achieved, they were masters of the St.
Gothard. It is true that as soon as they marched farther on, the
French would retake it and cut off their retreat; but what did this
matter to Souvarow? Did he not always march forward?
He marched on, then, without worrying about that which was behind
him, reached Andermatt, cleared Trou d'Ury, and found Lecourbe
guarding the defile of the Devil's Bridge with fifteen hundred men.
There the struggle began again; for three days fifteen hundred
Frenchmen kept thirty thousand Russians at bay. Souvarow raged like
a lion trapped in a snare, for he could not understand this change of
fortune. At last, on the fourth day, he heard that General
Korsakoff, who had preceded him and who was to rejoin him later, had
been beaten by Molitor, and that Massena had recaptured Zurich and
occupied the canton of Glaris. Souvarow now gave up the attempt to
proceed up the valley of the Reuss, and wrote to Korsakoff and
Jallachieh, "I hasten to retrieve your losses; stand firm as
ramparts: you shall answer to me with your heads for every step in
retreat that you take." The aide-de-camp was also charged to
communicate to the Russian and Austrian generals a verbal plan of
battle. Generals Linsken and Jallachieh were to attack the French
troops separately and then to join the forces in the valley of
Glaris, into which Souvarow himself was to descend by the Klon-Thal,
thus hemming Molitor in between two walls of iron.
Souvarow was so sure that this plan would be successful, that when he
arrived on the borders of the lake of Klon-Thal, he sent a bearer
with a flag of truce, summoning Molitor to surrender, seeing that he
was surrounded on every side.
Molitor replied, to the field-marshal that his proposed meeting with
his generals had failed, as he had beaten them one after the other,
and driven them back into the Grisons, and that moreover, in
retaliation, as Massena was advancing by Muotta, it was he, Souvarow,
who was between two fires, and therefore he called upon him to lay
down his arms instead.
On hearing this strange reply, Souvarow thought that he must be
dreaming, but soon recovering himself and realising the danger of his
position in the defiles, he threw himself on General Molitor, who
received him at the point of the bayonet, and then closing up the
pass with twelve hundred men, the French succeeded in holding fifteen
to eighteen thousand Russians in check for eight hours. At length
night came, and Molitor evacuated the Klon Thal, and retired towards
the Linth, to defend the bridges of Noefels and Mollis.
The old field-marshal rushed like a torrent over Glaris and Miltodi;
there he learnt that Molitor had told him the truth, and that
Jallachieh and Linsken had been beaten and dispersed, that Massena
was advancing on Schwitz, and that General Rosenberg, who had been
given the defence of the bridge of Muotta, had been forced to
retreat, so that he found himself in the position in which he had
hoped to place Molitor.
No time was to be lost in retreating. Souvarow hurried through the
passes of Engi, Schwauden, and Elm. His flight was so hurried that
he was obliged to abandon his wounded and part of his artillery.
Immediately the French rushed in pursuit among the precipices and
clouds. One saw whole armies passing over places where chamois-
hunters took off their shoes and walked barefoot, holding on by their
hands to prevent themselves from falling. Three nations had come
from three different parts to a meeting-place in the home of the
eagles, as if to allow those nearest God to judge the justice of
their cause. There were times when the frozen mountains changed into
volcanoes, when cascades now filled with blood fell into the valleys,
and avalanches of human beings rolled down the deepest precipices.
Death reaped such a harvest there where human life had never been
before, that the vultures, becoming fastidious through the abundance,
picked out only the eyes of the corpses to carry to their young--at
least so says the tradition of the peasants of these mountains.
Souvarow was able to rally his troops at length in the neighbourhood
of Lindau. He recalled Korsakoff, who still occupied Bregenz; but
all his troops together did not number more than thirty thousand men-
all that remained of the eighty thousand whom Paul had furnished as
his contingent in the coalition. In fifteen days Massena had
defeated three separate armies, each numerically stronger than his
own. Souvarow, furious at having been defeated by these same
Republicans whom he had sworn to exterminate, blamed the Austrians
for his defeat, and declared that he awaited orders from his emperor,
to whom he had made known the treachery of the allies, before
attempting anything further with the coalition.
Paul's answer was that he should immediately return to Russia with
his soldiers, arriving at St. Petersburg as soon as possible, where a
triumphal entry awaited them.
The same ukase declared that Souvarow should be quartered in the
imperial palace for the rest of his life, and lastly that a monument
should be raised to him in one of the public places of St.
Foedor was thus about to see Vaninka once more. Throughout the
campaign, where there was a chance of danger, whether in the plains
of Italy, in the defiles of Tesino, or on the glaciers of Mount
Pragal, he was the first to throw himself into it, and his name had
frequently been mentioned as worthy of distinction. Souvarow was too
brave himself to be prodigal of honours where they were not merited.
Foedor was returning, as he had promised, worthy of his noble
protector's friendship, and who knows, perhaps worthy of Vaninka's
love. Field-Marshal Souvarow had made a friend of him, and none
could know to what this friendship might not lead; for Paul honoured
Souvarow like one of the ancient heroes.
But no one could rely upon Paul, for his character was made up of
extreme impulses. Without having done anything to offend his master,
and without knowing the cause of his disgrace, Souvarow, on arriving
at Riga, received a private letter which informed him, in the
emperor's name, that, having tolerated an infraction of the laws of
discipline among his soldiers, the emperor deprived him of all the
honours with which he had been invested, and also forbade him to
appear before him.
Such tidings fell like a thunderbolt upon the old warrior, already
embittered by his reverses: he was heart-broken that such storm-
clouds should tarnish the end of his glorious day.
In consequence of this order, he assembled all his officers in the
market-place of Riga, and took leave of them sorrowfully, like a
father taking leave of his family. Having embraced the generals and
colonels, and having shaken hands with the others, he said good-bye
to them once more, and left them free to continue their march to
Souvarow took a sledge, and, travelling night and day, arrived
incognito in the capital, which he was to have entered in triumph,
and was driven to a distant suburb, to the house of one of his
nieces, where he died of a broken heart fifteen days afterwards.
On his own account, Foedor travelled almost as rapidly as his
general, and entered St. Petersburg without having sent any letter to
announce his arrival. As he had no parent in the capital, and as his
entire existence was concentrated in one person, he drove direct to
the general's house, which was situated in the Prospect of Niewski,
at an angle of the Catherine Canal.
Having arrived there, he sprang out of his carriage, entered the
courtyard, and bounded up the steps. He opened the ante-chamber
door, and precipitated himself into the midst of the servants and
subordinate household officers. They cried out with surprise upon
seeing him: he asked them where the general was; they replied by
pointing to the door of the diningroom; he was in there, breakfasting
with his daughter.
Then, through a strange reaction, Foedor felt his knees failing him,
and he was obliged to lean against a wall to prevent himself from
falling. At this moment, when he was about to see Vaninka again,
this soul of his soul, for whom alone he had done so much, he dreaded
lest he should not find her the same as when he had left her.
Suddenly the dining-room door opened, and Vaninka appeared. Seeing
the young man, she uttered a cry, and, turning to the general, said,
"Father, it is Foedor"; and the expression of her voice left no doubt
of the sentiment which inspired it.
"Foedor!" cried the general, springing forward and holding out his
Foedor did not know whether to throw himself at the feet of Vaninka
or into the arms of her father. He felt that his first recognition
ought to be devoted to respect and gratitude, and threw himself into
the general's arms. Had he acted otherwise, it would have been an
avowal of his love, and he had no right to avow this love till he
knew that it was reciprocated.
Foedor then turned, and as at parting, sank on his knee before
Vaninka; but a moment had sufficed for the haughty girl to banish the
feeling she had shown. The blush which had suffused her cheek had
disappeared, and she had become again cold and haughty like an
alabaster statue-a masterpiece of pride begun by nature and finished
by education. Foedor kissed her hand; it was trembling but cold he
felt his heart sink, and thought he was about to die.
"Why, Vaninka," said the general--"why are you so cool to a friend
who has caused us so much anxiety and yet so much pleasure? Come,
Fordor, kiss my daughter."
Foedor rose entreatingly, but waited motionless, that another
permission might confirm that of the general.
"Did you not hear my father?" said Vaninka, smiling, but nevertheless
possessing sufficient self-control to prevent the emotion she was
feeling from appearing in her voice.
Foedor stooped to kiss Vaninka, and as he held her hands it seemed to
him that she lightly pressed his own with a nervous, involuntary
movement. A feeble cry of joy nearly escaped him, when, suddenly
looking at Vaninka, he was astonished at her pallor: her lips were as
white as death.
The general made Foedor sit down at the table: Vaninka took her place
again, and as by chance she was seated with her back to the light,
the general noticed nothing.
Breakfast passed in relating and listening to an account of this
strange campaign which began under the burning sun of Italy and ended
in the glaciers of Switzerland. As there are no journals in St.
Petersburg which publish anything other than that which is permitted
by the emperor, Souvarow's successes were spread abroad, but his
reverses were ignored. Foedor described the former with modesty and
the latter with frankness.
One can imagine, the immense interest the general took in Foedor's
story. His two captain's epaulets and the decorations on his breast
proved that the young man had modestly suppressed his own part in the
story he had told. But the general, too courageous to fear that he
might share in Souvarow's disgrace, had already visited the dying
field-marshal, and had heard from him an account of his young
protege's bravery. Therefore, when Foedor had finished his story, it
was the general's turn to enumerate all the fine things Foedor had
done in a campaign of less than a year. Having finished this
enumeration, he added that he intended next day to ask the emperor's
permission to take the young captain for his aide-de-camp. Foedor
hearing this wished to throw himself at the general's feet, but he
received him again in his arms, and to show Foedor how certain he was
that he would be successful in his request, he fixed the rooms that
the young man was to occupy in the house at once.
The next day the general returned from the palace of St. Michel with
the pleasant news that his request had been granted.
Foedor was overwhelmed with joy: from this time he was to form part
of the general's family. Living under the same roof as Vaninka,
seeing her constantly, meeting her frequently in the rooms, seeing
her pass like an apparition at the end of a corridor, finding himself
twice a day at the same table with her, all this was more than Foedor
had ever dared hope, and he thought for a time that he had attained
For her part, Vaninka, although she was so proud, at the bottom of
her heart took a keen interest in Foedor. He had left her with the
certainty that he loved her, and during his absence her woman's pride
had been gratified by the glory he had acquired, in the hope of
bridging the distance which separated them. So that, when she saw
him return with this distance between them lessened, she felt by the
beating of her heart that gratified pride was changing into a more
tender sentiment, and that for her part she loved Foedor as much as
it was possible for her to love anyone.
She had nevertheless concealed these feelings under an appearance of
haughty indifference, for Vaninka was made so: she intended to let
Foedor know some day that she loved him, but until the time came when
it pleased her to reveal it, she did not wish the young man to
discover her love. Things went on in this way for several months,
and the circumstances which had at first appeared to Foedor as the
height of happiness soon became awful torture.
To love and to feel his heart ever on the point of avowing its love,
to be from morning till night in the company of the beloved one, to
meet her hand at the table, to touch her dress in a narrow corridor,
to feel her leaning on his arm when they entered a salon or left a
ballroom, always to have ceaselessly to control every word, look, or
movement which might betray his feelings, no human power could endure
such a struggle.
Vaninka saw that Foedor could not keep his secret much longer, and
determined to anticipate the avowal which she saw every moment on the
point of escaping his heart.
One day when they were alone, and she saw the hopeless efforts the
young man was making to hide his feelings from her, she went straight
up to him, and, looking at him fixedly, said:
"You love me!"
"Forgive me, forgive me," cried the young man, clasping his hands.
"Why should you ask me to forgive you, Foedor? Is not your love
"Yes, yes, genuine but hopeless."
"Why hopeless? Does not my father love you as a son?" said Vaninka.
"Oh, what do you mean?" cried Foedor. "Do you mean that if your
father will bestow your hand upon me, that you will then consent--?"
"Are you not both noble in heart and by birth, Foedor? You are not
wealthy, it is true, but then I am rich enough for both."
"Then I am not indifferent to you?"
"I at least prefer you to anyone else I have met."
"Vaninka!" The young girl drew herself away proudly.
"Forgive me!" said Foedor. "What am I doing? You have but to order:
I have no wish apart from you. I dread lest I shall offend you.
Tell me what to do, and I will obey."
"The first thing you must do, Foedor, is to ask my father's consent."
"So you will allow me to take this step?"
"Yes, but on one condition."
"What is it? Tell me."
"My father, whatever his answer, must never know that I have
consented to your making this application to him; no one must know
that you are following my instructions; the world must remain
ignorant of the confession I have just made to you; and, lastly, you
must not ask me, whatever happens, to help you in any other way than
with my good wishes."
"Whatever you please. I will do everything you wish me to do. Do
you not grant me a thousand times more than I dared hope, and if your
father refuses me, do I not know myself that you are sharing my
grief?" cried Foedor.
"Yes; but that will not happen, I hope," said Vaninka, holding out
her hand to the young officer, who kissed it passionately.
"Now be hopeful and take courage;" and Vaninka retired, leaving the
young man a hundred times more agitated and moved than she was
herself, woman though she was.
The same day Foedor asked for an interview with the general. The
general received his aide-de-camp as usual with a genial and smiling
countenance, but with the first words Foedor uttered his face
darkened. However, when he heard the young man's description of the
love, so true, constant, and passionate, that he felt for Vaninka,
and when he heard that this passion had been the motive power of
those glorious deeds he had praised so often, he held out his hand to
Foedor, almost as moved as the young soldier.
And then the general told him, that while he had been away, and
ignorant of his love for Vaninka, in whom he had observed no trace of
its being reciprocated, he had, at the emperor's desire, promised her
hand to the son of a privy councillor. The only stipulation that the
general had made was, that he should not be separated from his
daughter until she had attained the age of eighteen. Vaninka had
only five months more to spend under her father's roof. Nothing more
could be said: in Russia the emperor's wish is an order, and from the
moment that it is expressed, no subject would oppose it, even in
thought. However, the refusal had imprinted such despair on the
young man's face, that the general, touched by his silent and
resigned sorrow, held out his arms to him. Foedor flung himself into
them with loud sobs.
Then the general questioned him about his daughter, and Foedor
answered, as he had promised, that Vaninka was ignorant of
everything, and that the proposal came from him alone, without her
knowledge. This assurance calmed the general: he had feared that he
was making two people wretched.
At dinner-time Vaninka came downstairs and found her father alone.
Foedor had not enough courage to be present at the meal and to meet
her again, just when he had lost all hope: he had taken a sleigh, and
driven out to the outskirts of the city.
During the whole time dinner lasted Vaninka and the general hardly
exchanged a word, but although this silence was so expressive,
Vaninka controlled her face with her usual power, and the general
alone appeared sad and dejected.
That evening, just when Vaninka was going downstairs, tea was brought
to her room, with the message that the general was fatigued and had
retired. Vaninka asked some questions about the nature of his
indisposition, and finding that it was not serious, she told the
servant who had brought her the message to ask her father to send for
her if he wanted anything. The general sent to say that he thanked
her, but he only required quiet and rest. Vaninka announced that she
would retire also, and the servant withdrew.
Hardly had he left the room when Vaninka ordered Annouschka, her
foster-sister, who acted as her maid, to be on the watch for Foedor's
return, and to let her know as soon as he came in.
At eleven o'clock the gate of the mansion opened: Foedor got out of
his sleigh, and immediately went up to his room. He threw himself
upon a sofa, overwhelmed by his thoughts. About midnight he heard
someone tapping at the door: much astonished, he got up and opened
it. It was Annouschka, who came with a message from her mistress,
that Vaninka wished to see him immediately. Although he was
astonished at this message, which he was far from expecting, Foedor
He found Vaninka seated, dressed in a white robe, and as she was
paler than usual he stopped at the door, for it seemed to him that he
was gazing at a marble statue.
"Come in," said Vaninka calmly.
Foedor approached, drawn by her voice like steel to a magnet.
Annouschka shut the door behind him.
"Well, and what did my father say?" said Vaninka.
Foedor told her all that had happened. The young girl listened to
his story with an unmoved countenance, but her lips, the only part of
her face which seemed to have any colour, became as white as the
dressing-gown she was wearing. Foedor, on the contrary, was consumed
by a fever, and appeared nearly out of his senses.
"Now, what do you intend to do?" said Vaninka in the same cold tone
in which she had asked the other questions.
"You ask me what I intend to do, Vaninka? What do you wish me to do?
What can I do, but flee from St. Petersburg, and seek death in the
first corner of Russia where war may break out, in order not to repay
my patron's kindness by some infamous baseness?"
"You are a fool," said Vaninka, with a mixed smile of triumph and
contempt; for from that moment she felt her superiority over Foedor,
and saw that she would rule him like a queen for the rest of her
"Then order me--am I not your slave?" cried the young soldier.
"You must stay here," said Vaninka.
"Yes; only women and children will thus confess themselves beaten at
the first blow: a man, if he be worthy of the name, fights."
"Fight!--against whom?--against your father? Never!"
"Who suggested that you should contend against my father? It is
against events that you must strive; for the generality of men do not
govern events, but are carried away by them. Appear to my father as
though you were fighting against your love, and he will think that
you have mastered yourself. As I am supposed to be ignorant of your
proposal, I shall not be suspected. I will demand two years' more
freedom, and I shall obtain them. Who knows what may happen in the
course of two years? The emperor may die, my betrothed may die, my
father--may God protect him!--my father himself may die--!"
"But if they force you to marry?"
"Force me!" interrupted Vaninka, and a deep flush rose to her cheek
and immediately disappeared again. "And who will force me to do
anything? Father? He loves me too well. The emperor? He has
enough worries in his own family, without introducing them into
another's. Besides, there is always a last resource when every other
expedient fails: the Neva only flows a few paces from here, and its
waters are deep."
Foedor uttered a cry, for in the young girl's knit brows and tightly
compressed lips there was so much resolution that he understood that
they might break this child but that they would not bend her. But
Foedor's heart was too much in harmony with the plan Vaninka had
proposed; his objections once removed, he did not seek fresh ones.
Besides, had he had the courage to do so; Vaninka's promise to make
up in secret to him for the dissimulation she was obliged to practise
in public would have conquered his last scruples.
Vaninka, whose determined character had been accentuated by her
education, had an unbounded influence over all who came in contact
with her; even the general, without knowing why, obeyed her. Foedor
submitted like a child to everything she wished, and the young girl's
love was increased by the wishes she opposed and by a feeling of
It was some days after this nocturnal decision that the knouting had
taken place at which our readers have assisted. It was for some
slight fault, and Gregory had been the victim; Vaninka having
complained to her father about him. Foedor, who as aide-de-camp had
been obliged to preside over Gregory's punishment, had paid no more
attention to the threats the serf had uttered on retiring.