« PreviousContinue »
and deep conspiracy, erecting elaborate laws to shelter the good, against the enemies of repose, or hurling the thunder of their eloquence against the common foes of their country. The astonished frenchman would very likely say, " I always "thought that the english were a strange set of beings, but "they now exceed the powers of my comprehension, they '* can elicit wit in the midst of gloom, and can say such "things in a plain unbrushed coat of blue cloth, as all the *' robes, plumes, and finery of the republic, in her gaudy "halls of deliberation, cannot inspire."
From the legislative assembly I went to pay my respects to the gallant captain Bergeret, to whom I had letters of introduction. It will be immediately remembered, that this distinguished hero, in the Virginie, displayed the most undaunted courage, when she was engaged by sir Edward Pellew, in the Indefatigable, to whose superior prowess and naval knowledge, he was obliged to strike the tricolour flag. His bravery and integrity have justly entitled him to the admiration and lasting friendship of his noble conqueror, and to the esteem of the british nation. When sir Sidney Smith was confined in the Temple, and captain Bergeret a prisoner in England, the latter was sent to Fiance upon his parole, to endeavour to effect the exchange ©f sir Sidney. The french government, which was then under the direction of some of the basest and meanest of her tyrants, refused to listen to the proposal; and at the same time resisted .the return of their own countryman.
The gallant Bergeret was resolved to preserve his word of honour unsullied, or to perish In the attempt. Finding all his
x efforts THE TEMPLE. SIR SIDNEY SMITH'S ESCAPE.
efforts to obtain the liberation of the illustrious captive unavailing, menaced with death if he departed, and invited by promised command and promotion if he remained, he contrived to quit his own country by stealth, and returned a voluntary exile to his generous and confiding conquerors.
From captain B 's hotel I went to the Temple, so celebrated in the gloomy history of the revolution. It stands in the Rue du Temple, in the Fauxbourg of that name. The entrance is handsome, and does not much impress the idea of the approach to a place of such confinement. Over the gates is a pole, supporting a dirty and tattered bonnet rouge, of which species of republican decoration there are very few now to be seen in Paris. The door was opened to me by the principal gaoler, whose predecessor had been dismissed on account of his imputed connivance in the escape of sir Sidney Smith. His appearance seemed fully to qualify him for his savage office, and to insure his superiors against all future apprehension, Of a remission of duty by any act of humanity, feeling, or commiseration. He told me, that he could not permit me to advance beyond the lodge, on account of a peremptory order which he had just received from government. . From this place I had a full command of the walk and prison, the latter of which is situated in the centre of the walls. He pointed out to me the window of the room in which the royal sufferers languished. As the story of sir Sidney Smith's escape from this prison has been involved in some ambiguity, a short recital of it will, perhaps, not prove uninteresting.
After several months had rolled away, since the gates of his
prison SIR SIDNEY SMITH'S ESCAPE.' 155
prison had first closed upon the brittsh hero, he observed that Chap. a lady who lived in an upper apartment on the opposite side xV> of the street, seemed frequently to look towards that part of the prison in which he was confined. As often as he observed her, he played some tender air upon his flute, by which, and by imitating every motion which she made, he at length succeeded in fixing her attention upon him, and had the happiness of remarking that she occasionally observed him with a glass. One morning when he saw that she was looking attentively upon him in this manner, he tore a blank leaf from an old mass book which was lying in his cell, and with the soot of the chimney, contrived, by his finger, to describe upon it, in a large character, the letter A, which he held to the window to be viewed by his fair sympathizing observer. After gazing upon it for some little time, she nodded, to show that she understood what he meant, sir Sidney then touched the top of the first bar of the grating of his window, which he wished her to consider as the representative of the letter A, the second B, and so on, until he had formed, from the top of the bars, a corresponding number of letters; and by touching the middle, and bottom parts of them, upon a line with each other, he easily, after having inculcated the first impression of his wishes, completed a telegraphic alphabet. The process of communication was, from its nature, very slow, but sir Sidney had the happiness of observing, upon forming the first word, that this excellent being, who beamed before him like a guardian angel, seemed completely to comprehend it, which she expressed by an assenting movement of the head. Frequently
x 2 ' obliged
156 SIR SIDNEY SMITH'S ESCAPE. COLONEL PHELIPEAUX.
Chap. obliged to desist from this tacit and tedious intercourse, from
the dread of exciting the curiosity of the gaolers, or his fellow
prisoners, who were permitted to walk before his window, sir Sidney occupied several days in communicating to his unknown friend, his name and quality, and imploring her to procure some unsuspected royalist of consequence and address sufficient for the undertaking, to effect his escape; in the achievement of which he assured her, upon his word of honour, that whatever cost might be incurred, would be amply reimbursed, and that the bounty and gratitude of his country would nobly remunerate those who had the talent, and bravery to accomplish it. By the same means he enabled her to draw confidential and accredited bills, for considerable sums of money, for the promotion of the scheme, which she applied with the most perfect integrity. Colonel Phclipeaux was at this time at Paris; a military man of rank, and a secret royalist, most devoutly attached to the fortunes of the exiled family of. France, and to those who supported their cause. He had been long endeavouring to bring to maturity, a plan for facilitating their restoration, but which the loyal adherent, from a series of untoward and uncontrollable circumstances, began to despair of accomplishing. The lovely deliverer of sir Sidney, applied to this distinguished character, to whom she was known, and stated the singular correspondence which had taken place between herself and the heroic captive in the Temple. Phclipeaux, who was acquainted with the fame of sir Sidney, and chagrined at the failure of his former favourite scheme, embraced the present project with a sort of prophetic enthusiasm, COLONEL PHELIPEAUX. J57
siasm, by which he hoped to restore, to the british nation, Chap. one of her greatest heroes, who, by his skill and valour, might xv' once more impress the common enemy with dismay, augment the glory of his country, and cover himself with the laurels of future victory. Intelligent, active, cool, daring, and insinuating, colonel Phelipeaux immediately applied himself to bring to maturity, a plan at once suitable to his genius, and interesting to his wishes. To those whom it was necessary to employ upon the occasion, he contrived to unite one of the clerks of the minister of the police, who forged his signature with exact imitation, to an order for removing the body of sir Sidney, from the Temple to the prison of the Conciergeric: after this was accomplished, on the day after that on which the inspector of gaols was to visit the Temple and Coneiergerie, a ceremony, which is performed once a month in Paris, two gentlemen of tried courage and address, who were previously instructed by colonel Phelipeaux,. disguised as oflicecs of the marechaussee, presented, themselves in a fiacre at the Temple, and demanded the delivery of sir Sidney, at the same time showing the forged order for his removal. This the gaoler attentively perused and examined, as well as the minister's signature. Soon after the register of the prison informed sir Sidney of the order of the directory, upon hearing which,, he at first appeared to be a little disconcerted, upon which the pscudoofficers gave him every assurance of the honour and mild intentions of the government towards him, sir Sidney seemed more reconciled, packed up his clothes, took leave of his fellow prisoners, and distributed little tokens