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THE COUNT-A SKETCH FROM THE came a sergeant under the regime of Mar
shal Soult, and, in the course of time, FRENCH REVOLUTION.
distinguished himself by his bravery and DIERRE COIGNARD was the son of good conduct. I a vine-dresser of Langeais, in the de- At Saragossa, in the year 1813, Pontis partment of the Indre-et-Loire, and served | made the acquaintance of a Spanish girl as a grenadier under the Convention. called Rosa Marcen, whom he afterward Though a brave soldier, he was an auda married; and the two congenial spirits set cious thief, and was at length apprehended, themselves to work to discover a way to tried, and condemned to fourteen years of fortune less tedious and doubtful than the the galleys. But he did not like the se- ranks. An extraordinary coincidence in clusion of the bagne; and, chained as he names gave them the first hint ; and inwas like a wild beast, he contrived, in the deed so strange an influence do seeming fourth year of his imprisonment, to make trifles exercise over the destinies of men, his escape. His success, however, was that it was perhaps to this coincidence was attended by a circumstance which he had owing the intimacy of two beings so well afterward occasion to refer to as one of calculated to play into each other's hands the great landmarks of his history. His in the game of life. Why Pierre Coigcomrade in the adventure had been like-nard, among all the names in the world, wise condemned, on the same day with should have chosen the name of Pontis, himself, to fourteen years' fetters; and the is not known; but it so happened that it two desperadoes were drawn together, not was even as a household word in the ears only by this coincidence in their fortunes, of Rosa Marcen, she having served in but by a dissimilarity in character and ac- some capacity or other in an emigrant quirements which seemed to point them family bearing that patronymic. Whether out as fit associates in crime. What the her service was that of a governess or a one wanted, the other possessed. Coig waiting-woman, and whether she retired nard was tolerably well educated; the or was driven from it, are matters beyond other had known no other school than that the ken of biography; but it is certain that of the world. Coignard was an easy, pli- she beheld with great interest an individant man of society; the other a character | ual bearing a name so intiinately associated of iron, molten by nature in a mold, which with the events of her own history. And might be broken, but never bent. Coig- this interest was not lessened by the fact nard, in fine, obtained his ends by address, that Pontis was a young and handsome fortified by resolution; and the other by soldier, at once polite and daring, and enan implacable stubbornness of purpose, dowed with that cool and gentle self-poswhich was dead to all considerations but session, before which all weaker spirits the one idea before it, which it grappled quail like lunatics beneath the voiceless and clung to for life or death. The union eye of their keeper. of two such men would have enriched the But “ Pontis ?" that was the name of a annals of guilt; but it was not to take titled family. Was this young grenadier place. They were detected in the act of a cadet of the noble house whose repreattempting to escape, and only one could sentatives had fled before the horrors of fly. Had that one been the comrade, he the Revolution ? He might be so by his would at once have rejected the tempta- person and bearing; and the idea retained tion. And why? Because the object of hold of the imagination of Rosa, even after their plan had failed, which was the flight she learned that he had as little to do of both. But Coignard, who never grew with the nobility either of mind or birth sulky with fate, so far from abandoning as herself. An epoch by-and-by came his enterprise, made use of his unlucky when such an idea was likely to present friend as a stepping-stone in his escape ; | itself in a more enticing form than now, and, putting his foot upon his shoulder, when counts were at a discount. The spurned him away as he caught at the French were compelled to evacuate the wall above, behind which he speedily dis Peninsula. Louis le Desiré returned to appeared with the vengeful yell of his as- | the throne of his ancestors ; and our Ponsociate ringing in his ears. He changed tis and his wife found themselves once his name from Coignard to Pontis, fled into more in a country where the husband had Spain, joined anew the French army, be- I worked in chains as a forçat.
They proceeded to Soissons, to look fairest opportunities for his advancement, after the wrecks which the Revolution or rather made his advancement a duty might have spared of their ancestral for- on the part of the court. He received tune. They found themselves alone in successively the knightly decorations of the field. No other Pontis appeared upon the Legion of Honor and Saint Louis, be. the scene: all had perished in exile ; and came a member of the order of Alcantara, owing to the registers of the town having and rose to be a lieutenant-colonel in the been burned in the confusion of the Revo- | legion of the Seine. On his part he relution, the heir of the illustrious house was paid the royal favor with unbounded deunable even to prove his birth! Thus un- | votion, his loyalty was without reproach, luckily situated, Pontis called up an old and he was esteemed one of the most lady of his own name, who was waiting in rising and respectable characters in the an agony of impatience to see her family | French court. reëstablished in their ancient honors by the The expensive manner in which the Restoration. She recognized the hand count lived might have afforded, but for some young soldier as a Pontis at the first one circumstance, some suspicion that he glance; she knew him by the hereditary enjoyed still weightier favors of governnose ; she could not be mistaken in the ment than crosses and decorations. The calm, firm, half-smiling lip, which gave the pay of a lieutenant-colonel, with any fragworld assurance of a Pontis. But who ments he might have recovered of his hewas this young wife whom he presented | reditary possessions, was not enough to acto her? Had the unhappy man tarnished count for a liberality as unbounded as it was his blood with a mésalliance? Had heunostentatious. The inexhaustible fund on brought some obscure foreigner to mock which he drew was neither squandered nor the state of the Countess de Sainte- spared; he had money for all legitimate purHélène ? No. The noble heir of the poses; and when other men had recourse, Pontis assured his aged relation, that even on extraordinary emergencies, to loans and in exile he had been too proud of their mortgages, the Count de Sainte Hélène common name to share it with one meaner had nothing to do but to write a check. than himself. This lady, though their His marriage accounted for this. His marriage was unsanctioned by her family | noble wife was the mine, on the produce till his claims should be established, was of which he lived ; and her Spanish gold of the highest blood of Spain—she was a was daily transmuted in any quantities daughter of the viceroy of Malaga! This into French silver. was enough, almost too much. The old It was supposed at the time, howerer, lady wept with pride and delight, and she that other men had recourse to more disended by making the whole town weep reputable means of supply; for the wholewith her. An act of notoriety, as it is sale robberies that were committed on all called in French law, was readily obtained, hands had become as alarming as they recognizing the birth of the returned emi- | were inexplicable. No precautions were grant; and this being transferred to the sufficient for the safeguard of valuable existing registers of Soissons, Pierre Coig- property. In the recesses of palaces, nard, the escaped felon, found himself thefts were as common as in the shops of transformed, as if by magic, into Pontis, the citizens; and it was obvious that there Count de Sainte-Hélène.
had been established a system of briganWe have not ascertained that the pecu- dage, whose organization comprehended a niary resources of the adventurer were much higher class than usual. Eren a much improved by this recognition of his nobleman was not safe from suspicion nobility ; indeed it would seem from the whose habits exhibited anything of the context that this was not the case. It is mysterious ; but as for our count and far more difficult to obtain an estate than countess, they lived so much in public, a title ; and perhaps the count may have they belonged so completely to the court thought it imprudent to refer his claims to and to society, that the suspicion must the searching arbitrement of the courts of have been wild indeed which could attach law. But his grateful prince would not itself to them. suffer the scion of the noble house to lan- ! One day the count was at the head of guish in poverty and obscurity; and in his regiment in the Place du Carrousel, deed the talents of the count offered the assisting at a splendid military parade. On one side of the square were the garden a word in reply, and the door was opened and palace of the Tuileries; on the oppo- as instantly as its ponderous bolts permitsite side the Avenue du Neuilly, extending ted. He followed her through a ruinous as straight as an arrow along the side of court, and signifying by a silent gesture the Champs Elysées, to the verge of the that he would dispense with her further horizon, now terminated by a triumphal service, he knocked at another door. Here arch; on the third, the Place Vendôme, he was again challenged; but his voice with its noble column ; and on the fourth, gained him admittance as before, and presthe Seine spanned by a bridge loaded with ently he found himself in a room much statues. This magnificent scene was more comfortable than might have been crowded with spectators, even to the trees expected from the exterior. of the Champs Elysées; and as the Count “ What! you here ?" said the man who de Sainte Hélène felt himself to be one opened the door to him, and who was the of the great actors in the pageant, a wild only inmate of the apartment. “Why, throb must have heaved the chest of the Peter, this is an unusual and unexpected escaped forçat. But the word he hardly honor.” now considered to apply to him ; for his “I have reasons, Alexander,” replied fourteen years' sentence was expired if the visitor, gravely ; and as he opened his not fulfilled. Some days ago he had cele-cloak and threw his hat upon the table, brated in his own mind the fourteenth the striking resemblance between the two anniversary of his condemnation, and de- men would have enabled a stranger to proclared himself to be a free man! It is nounce them at once to be brothers. no wonder that on this occasion he should “Reasons you of course have, for you revert exultingly to his escape from the never act without them : but before you bagne, as an event which had turned the open your budget, let me put you in good current of his life, and given him to his humor by presenting you with this handfortune ; but as his thoughts lost them some sum of money, your share of as rich selves in the recollection, he leaped sud- a spoil as we have yet taken." denly in the saddle, as if transfixed with “ Set it down; I cannot attend to busia spear.
ness at present. I have seen a ghost." At first he hardly knew what it was “A ghost! I know a man who would that had affected him; or, knowing it, he scare even you ; but I was not aware that set it down as a delusion growing out of you stood in special awe of the immaterial his waking dream. An eye had rested world. In what form appeared the ghost?" upon his for a moment, as his face was “In the form of a human eye, which turned toward the crowd-a phantom eye was fixed upon mine to-day for an instant doubtless, such as sometimes glares upon in the Place du Carrousel. Whether it us from the abysses of memory, for he was anything more than a fragment of a never could meet with it again. Yet the dream I had fallen into at the moment, I count could not help repeating to himself, cannot tell ; but if it was really in a hunor avoid a sensation of sickness as he did man head, it belongs to the man you also, that the comrade he had abandoned to lude to." his chains, spurning him with his foot “And what then?" while he did so, was now a free man like “Merely that I am lost.” himself, and by a more legitimate title !! “What nonsense! You are too clever, In the case of almost any other human too self-possessed, too far-seeing for that. being in similar circumstances, this would You are unknown even to your own band have been of little consequence, for he was -I, your lieutenant and your brother, now rich enough to buy silence from hate being the sole medium of communication itself. But Pontis knew his man. between you. Besides me, you have no
That night the portress of a common | confidant in the world but your own wife, looking house in the rue Saint Maur was your splendid countess, who is the life and called from her repose by a gentle ring at soul of the association, without whose the bell.
guiding voice we could not stir a siep, and - What is your pleasure ?" said she, who could not criminate you without despeaking through the wicket. “ I am alone, stroying herself.” and although very poor, do not care to “All that is true ; but you do not know open to strangers.” The visitor muttered the man as I do."
6 We must buy him."
turned out, and the informer, saying po66 It is for that I am here. But take litely that he would call again to-morrow, care you bid high. Strip me of all I pos- | took his leave. sess—take the diamond crosses from my The next morning he was met near the breast—the jewels from my wife's hair- prefecture by a man, who entered into but let him have his price! You must do conversation with him. still more than that."
“You are from Toulon ?" said the 6 Not blood ?"
stranger, abruptly. “ Not without necessity. We must em- “Well, if so ?" ploy him. We must steep his hand in “You are going to denounce somecrime and that will be your easiest task. body ?' Till he is again at the mercy of the po “ Well?" lice-till the fourteen years' fetters of “ He is too strong for you." Toulon dance again before his visionit “ We shall see." is impossible for me to sleep.”
“ Are you rich ?" “ And if it fails? If he will neither “I have still enough for dinner: I must steal gold nor accept of it as a present," shift as I can for the rest of the day." “ Then we shall talk further.”
“ Will a thousand francs do ?” Among the crowd that day in the Place “No." du Carrousel, there had been a man who “ Ten thousand ?" attracted the attention of some of the older "No." members of the police. His was a well “ Twenty thousand ?" known face; but it had not been seen for “No." many years, and the thief-takers employed “Come, at a word-we want to be themselves in getting the lineaments again friends with you. What do you want!" by heart. But the man, secure in his " Take four from fourteen, and there innocence, (for the bagne wipes off all are ten : ten years of fetters would satisfy scores,) strolled carelessly on. He did | me. I will not abate him a month!” not meet a single acquaintance-fourteen | “Ha!-ha-ha! that is a good joke! years being, in his calling, the outside But do you not know that he is more limits of a generation ; till all on a sudden, than a count, more than a knight, more as he glanced upon a general officer pass than a lieutenant-colonel ? Can you guess ing slowly on horseback, an expression of what he is ?” surprise escaped him, his dull eye light-| “Yes; he is the man who broke his ened with joy, and then the brief illumina-compact with me in the bagne of Toulon, tion faded away into a fixed and lurid and spurned me away with his foot as glare. At that moment the officer ap- he sprang over the wall. I must have peared to see him; and shutting his eyes | him back; it is only justice. Good mornsuddenly, and ducking under the shoulders ing!” and the old forçat went into the of the crowd, the old forçat turned away. prefecture.
It was easy for him to ascertain the This time he was apparently but little rank and position of the object of his in- more successful than on the former occaterest ; to learn that, without estates, he sion; but the functionaries were surprised possessed prodigious wealth ; that he had at his pertinacity, and considered it due brought a wife with him from Spain, who to the character of the count to send some was supposed to be the source of his one to him to hint delicately at the calumriches ; and that the records of Soissons nies that were abroad. They told the inhaving been burned, he had established his former, therefore, that inquiries would be birth by an “ act of notoriety."
made, and directed him to call the next “ Ah!” said he ; " that is so like him! | day, in the idea that by that time they He is a clever fellow, and he is now at would have authority to take him into his old tricks; but he has climbed thus far custody. He was pleased, accordingly, upon the shoulder of his comrade-he with his success. He dined cheerfully; must down!” He went straight to the spent the afternoon in walking about ; in office of the prefect, and denounced Lieut. the evening felt hungry again, but resisted Colonel Pontis, Count de Sainte-Hélène, the temptation to commit a theft, lest he as an escaped forçat. The clerks laughed should be locked up from the business that at him, the prefect ordered him to be engrossed him; and at night, being per
fectly moneyless, he repaired to one of charged at the gensd'armes, he was overthe bridges to sleep under an arch. powered, and taken into custody. The
This was the most quiet, though by no revelations made in this den of thieves means the most solitary bed-chamber he identified him with the mysterious chief could have found; for that night every of banditti who had so long kept the city crib in Paris was searched for him by mes- | in awe; and being conducted to the prison sengers who would have silenced him in of La Force, he was tried for various disone way or other. As it was, he lay un- tinct robberies, as well as for his evasion disturbed except by his dreams, and the from the bagne of Toulon. fitful moonbeams glancing like spectres A narrative like this, with its circumupon the water. Sometimes he awoke, and stances laid only a few years ago, wears fancied himself in the prison of Toulon, till an air of improbability ; but many personreassured by the voice of the river which ations quite as extraordinary took place murmured in his ear, “ It is only justice." | after the confusion of the revolution. The Then he felt hungry, and the night air peculiar feature in the case of Coignard, grew chill, and the hard stones pierced is, that the imposture was followed out to his limbs ; and he thought of the thousands the very last, in spite of the legal exand thousands of francs that had been of- posure. He would not plead by any other fered him, and of the pleasure and dignity | name than his fictitious one ; and the presof robbing in a great band commanded by ident of the court was obliged to call him a nobleman. But then he shrugged his simply, “ You accused !" When transshoulder by means of which Coignard had ferred to his old quarters at Toulon, under stepped upon the wall; and looking for sentence of fetters for life, he preserved ward to the morrow, a grim feeling of the calm sedate dignity of an injured man, satisfaction stole over his heart, the in- and was much respected by the other dulgence of which seemed better than forçats, who always addressed him by his food, money, or honor. And then the assumed title. This character he conmoonbeams disappeared on the river, and tinued to enact up to his death; and perthe wind moaned along its bosom, and the haps he ended by persuading even himself waters answered with a hollow murmur that the companion of nobles, and the which syllabled in his ear, “ Justice- protégé of a king, was in reality the Count justice !" and he fell into a profound slum- de Sainte-Hélèna. ber that lasted till the morning, confounding revenge with justice. Thus works vice-its mutual aids being but the means,
(For the National Magazine.] at last, of mutual retribution.
THE STORMY PETREL. The prefect in the mean time had employed General Despinois to wait upon the
BY E, C. HOWE, 2. D. count; but the latter, instead of meeting Far away from land, on the rolling sea, the charge with the incredulity, ridicule, In storm or calm as it may be, or indignation that had been expected,
Doth the stormy petrel bravely roam,
O'er the heaving billows' cloud-toss'd foam. made quiet speeches, and entered into long explanations, and the astonished en On the rock-bound coast she buildeth her nest, voy returned to his employers hardly able And teacheth right early her young to breast to form an opinion. That opinion, how. The storms of life ; and side by side ever, was at once come to by the more
They wing their way o'er the ocean wide. experienced authorities of the prefecture;
The sailor, bless'd with calm and cheer, and after a minute examination of the in Upstarts at the voice of the petrel near; former, who had planted himself at the For he knows full well that the sea-bird's cry
Is an omen true of a stormy sky. office-door long before it opened in the morning, it was determined to arrest the
0! many a proud and gallant form count on suspicion of being an escaped
In quiet sleeps 'neath the ocean's storm ; felon. But this was only what he had But none can mark the mariner's grave, expected, and for some days all Paris was Save thou, lone bird of the stormy wave. searched for him in vain. They tracked
Bright bird of the deep and wide, wide sea, him at length to the house in the rue Saint
As o'er its depths thou wingest free, Maur ; and although he defended himself
A requiem chant ’mid the tempest's gloom, with his pistols, both of which he dis- / Above the sailor's coral tomb.