Page images

disconcerted the pride of the deputy, "I have never The interrogatory terminated, Chabot disconseen him. I did not esteem the life or the death tented with the result, devoured with his eye, the of such a man so important to the safety of the re- hair, the visage, the stature, the whole person of public."

the young girl bound before him. He believed They searched her. They only found at this that he perceived a paper folded and attached by a moment in her pockets the key of her trunk, her pin upon her bosom; he stretched out his hand to silver thimble, some instruments of needle-work seize it. Charlotte had forgotten the paper of just now so near the poniard of Brutus ; a ball of which Chabot obtained a glimpse and which conthread, two hundred francs in “ assignats” and in tained an address to the French people, prepared money, a gold watch made by a watchmaker of by herself, to invite the citizens to the punishment Caen and her passport. Under her neckerchief of tyrants and to concord. She thought she saw she still concealed the sheath of the poniard with in the gesture and in the eye of Chabot an outrage which she had struck Marat.

to her modesty. Deprived of her two hands, by "Do you recognize this poniard ?" they asked of her cords, she was not able to oppose them to the ber.

insult. The horror and indignation which she had * Yes."

experienced, caused her to make a movement in “Who has induced you to this crime?" the rear of the body and shoulders, so sudden and

** I have seen," she responded, “civil war pre- so convulsive, that the cord of her robe broke and pared to rend France in pieces ; persuaded that the robe itself, being detached, left uncovered her Marat was the principle cause of the calamities bosom. Confused, she bent herself as quickly as and perils of the country, I have made the sacri- thought and folded herself in two to hide her nufice of my life against his to save my country.". dity from her judges. It was too late, her purity

"Name to us the persons who have counselled had to blush at the eye of man. you to this execrable crime, which you would not Patriotism did not render these men cynics nor have conceived of yourself ?".

insensible. They appeared to suffer as much as " No one has known my design. I have de- Charlotte at that involuntary punishment of her ceived, as to the object of my journey, the aunt innocence. She supplicated that they would loose with whom I lived. I have deceived my father. her hands that she might fasten her robe. One of Few persons frequent the house of my relation. them detached the cords.

Respect for nature No one has been able even to suspect in me my closed the eyes of these men. Her hands Joosed, thought."

Charlotte turned herself to the wall and readjusted “ Have you not quitted the town of Caen with her neckerchief. the projet formed of assassinating Marat ?"

They profiled by the moment when she had her "I have not departed but for that purpose.”

hands free, lo make her sign the responses. The "Where have you procured the instrument ? cords had left their prints and their blue furrows What persons have you seen at Paris ? What upon the skin of her arms. When they were gohave you done since Thursday, the day that you ing to tie them anew, she prayed the jailers to perarrived ?"

mit her to lower her sleeves and put her gloves To these questions she recounted, with a literal under her chains to spare her an nseless punishment sincerity, all the circumstances already known of before the last punishment. The accent and the her sojourn at Paris and of her action.

gesture of the poor girl were such in addressing " Have you not sought to fly after the murder ?"|ihis prayer 10 her judges and in showing her bruis"I should have escaped by the door, if they had ed hands, thai Harmand could not restrain his tears not opposed it."

and withdrew to conceal them. " Are you a girl, and have you never loved a Here are the principle passages in the texto

this address, which have been withdrawn, up to this "Never !"

time, from the curious researches of history, and which have been communicated to us since the commencement of the publication of this book, by an obliging zeal for the truth of the individual who

possesses it, M. Paillet. It is written in the hand These answers, precise, proud, disdainful by of Charlotte Corday, in large characters, mascuturns, made in a voice whose sound recalled child-line, firm, strongly traced and as if intended 10 hood, while announcing masculine thoughts, indu- strike the eye from a distance. The sheet of paper ced the interrogators often to reflect upon the power is folded eight times to occupy less space under the of a fanaticism which borrowed and strengthened garment. Jt is pierced with eight holes still visi. 80 feeble a hand. They hoped always to discover ble by the pin which fastened it on the bosom of an instigator behind that candor and that beauty. Charlotte. They only found the inspiration of an intrepid

יין Iman



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

" Address to the French, the friends of law and of “My relations and friends ought not to be dispeace :

quieted; no person knew of my intentions. I an

nex my extract of baptism to show what the feeblest “ How long, oh! miserable Frenchmen, will you hand can do, led by a thorough devotion. If I do be pleased with disorder and divisions ? Long not succeed in my enterprise, Frenchmen, I have enough and too long have some factious men, some shown you the road, you know your enemies, arise! wicked men placed the interest of their ambition march, strike !" in the place of the general interest. Why, vic

• Whether to the astonished Universe, tims of their fury, do you destroy yourselves 10

This grand empire should prove to be the object establish their desire of tyranny over the ruins of or horror, or admiring approbationFrance ?

My spirit, (with small care for future fame,) The factions explode on all sides; the Moun- Does not enquire ;- be it reproach or glory, tain triumphs by crime and oppression; some mon

My duty! that suffices :-all the rest sters drenched with our blood, conduct their de.

Is nothing. Onward ! and deliberate

No more, but how to escape from slavery."" testable conspiracies.

We labor for our own ruin with more zeal and energy than In reading the verses, inserted by the hand of we have shown in conquering liberty! Oh, French- the grand-daughter of Corneille, at the end of this men, yet a liule time and there will not remain of address, as an antique seal upon a page of time, you but the souvenir of your existence !

one believes at the first glance that these verses are Already the indignant departments march on her ancestors and that she has thus invoked the RoParis; already the fire of discord and civil war in- man patriotism of the great tragedian of her race. flame the half of this vast empire ; there is still a One is deceived; the verses are from Voltaire in means of extinguishing it, but the means must be the tragedy of the death of Cæsar. prompt. Already the vilest of the wicked, Marat, The authenticity of ihis address is attested by a whose name alone presents the image of all crime, letter of Fouquier Tinville, annexed to the same in falling under the avenging steel, shakes the packet of papers. This letter of the public accuMountain and makes Danion grow pale. Robes- ser is addressed to the Committee of general sepierre, those other brigands seated upon the bloody curity of the Convention. Here it is : throne, are enveloped in the lightning which the

“ Citizens, I send you here included the interavenging gods of humanity only suspend, without rogatory undergone by the girl, Charlotte Corday, donbt, to render their fall more gliitering and to and two letters written by her in the house where affright all those who would be tempted to estab- she stopped, of which one is for Barbaroux. These lish their fortunes on the ruins of an abused people! letters are circulated in the streets in a manner so

“Frenchmen! you know your enemies, arise! mutilated, that it might be perhaps necessary to march! Let the Mountain annihilated leave only print them such as they are. As to the rest, Citibrothers and friends! I do not know if Heaven zens, when you shall have read them, if you judge reserve to us a republican government, but it can that there is no impropriety in printing them, you not give us a leader of the Mountain for

will oblige me by giving your opinion. unless in the excess of vengeance.

.. O,

I observe to you that I have just been informed France ! thy repose depends on the execution of that this female assassin was the friend of Belthe laws; I do not give a blow to them in killing zunce, a Colonel killed at Caen in an insurrection, Marat. Condemned by the universe, he is with and that since that epoch, she has conceived an out the law. What tribunal will judge me? If I implacable hate against Marat, and this hate apam guilty, Alcides was, when he destroyed the pears to have been reanimated in her at the momonsters!

ment in which Marat denounced Rison, who was a “ O, my country! thy misfortunes tear my heart ; relation of Belzunce, and that Barbaroux appears I can not offer thee but my life ! and I return thanks to have profited by the criminal disposition of this to Heaven for the liberty which I enjoy of dispo- girl against Marat, lead her to execute this horsing of it ; no person will lose by my death ; I will rible assassination. not imitate Paris, (the murderer of Lepelletier de

FOUQUIER TINville." Saint-Fargeau,) in killing myself. I desire that It is seen by these hesitations and these conjecmy last sigh may be useful to my fellow.citizens, cores, that the opinion wandered from hypothesis thal my head borne in Paris, may be a sign of ral- to hypothesis at the first moment, seeking the molying for all friends of the laws ! that the totter- tive of the crime sometimes in love-sometimes in ing Mountain may see its ruin written with my resentment on refusing to see where it was in the blood ! that I may be their last victim, and the wanderings of patriotism. universe avenged may declare that I have deserved They consigned Charlotte Corday to a dungeon. well humanity! As to the rest, if my conduct Guarded in sight, even during the night by two should be looked at with another eye, I am liule - gendarmes,” she complained in vain against this distorbed at it.

profanation of her sex. The Committee of gel



eral security pressed her judgment and her punish-|I did not know them, in order to ward off from ment. She heard from her little bed, the public them the disagreeable necessity of giving explacriers who hawked about the narrative of the mur. nations. I followed in that my oracle, Raynal, who der in the streets, and the howlings of the multi- says that one does not own the truth to his tyrants. tude, who imprecated a thousand deaths on the as- It is, by means of the female who was my fellowsassio. Charlotte did not take that voice for the traveller, that they have learned that I know you, decision of posterity. Through the horror which and that I had seen Duperret. You know the deshe inspired, she had a presentiment of apotheosis. termined (soul of Duperret. He has answered lo that thought she wrote to the Committee of gen- them the exact truth. There is nothing against eral security : “ Since I have still some instants him, but his firmness is a crime. I repented too to live, I would hope, Citizens, that you will per- late of having spoken to him. I wished to repair mit me to have my portrait painted. I would wish my wrong in supplicating him to Ay and rejoin to leave this souvenir of myself to my friends. you. He is too determined to permit himself to Besides, as the likeness of good citizens is cher- be influenced. Would you believe it? Fauchet ished, curiosity sometimes induces a search for that is imprisoned as my accomplice; he, who was igof great criminals to perpetuate horror of their norant of my existence. But they are not content crime. If you deign to acquiesce in my demand, with having only a woman, without consequence, I pray you to send me to-morrow a painter in min- to offer to the manes of that great man! Pardon! jature. I renew to you the prayer to permit me to O men! that name of Marat dishonors your race. sleep alone. I hear, without ceasing, the cry in He was a ferocious beast, who was going to devour the streets,” she added, “ of the arrest of Fauchet, the rest of France by the fire of civil war. Thanks my accomplice. I have never seen him except to Heaven, he was not born a Frenchman. . . At through a window, two years ago. I neither re. my first examination, Chabot had the air of a fool. gard him nor esteem him. He is the last man in Legendre was anxious to have seen me in the the world to whom I would willingly have confi- morning at his house, I, who have never given a ded my intention. If this declaration can serve thought to that man. I do not believe him to be bim, I certify the truth of it.”

of a stature to be the tyrant.of his country, and I do not pretend to punish all the world. . . . I believe they have printed the last words of Marat.

I doubt if he ever uttered them. But here are the

last he ever said to me : After having received all The president of the revolutionary tribunal, Mon- your names and those of the administrators of the tané, came the next day, the 16th, to interrogate department of Calvados, who are at Evreux, he the accused.

Touched with so much beauty and said to me, to console me, that in a few days, he youth, and convinced of the sincerity of a fanati- would have them all sent to the guillotine at Paris. cism which rendered almost innocent the assassin These last words decided his fate. I avow, that in the eyes of human justice, he wished to save that which finally decided me in this enterprise, the life of the accused. He directed questions was the courage with which our volunteers enrolland insinualed tacitly the answers to induce the ed themselves on Sunday, the 7th of July. You judges to conclude on madness rather than crime. recollect that I promised to make Pethion repent Charlotte obstinately deceived the merciful inten- of the suspicions which he manifested as to my tion of the president. She claimed her act as sentiments. I considered that so many brave men, her glory. They transported her to the Concier- marching to have the head of a single man, of gerie. Madame Richard, the wife of the door which they might have failed, or which would have keeper of that prison, received her there with the drawn down in its loss many good citizens, that compassion which this approximation of youth and man did not merit so much honor and that the hand the scaffold inspired. Thanks to the indulgence of a woman was sufficient for him. I avow that of her jailer, Charlotte obtained ink, paper and suli- I have employed a perfidious artifice to induce him inde. She profited by them to write to Barbaroux 10 receive me. a letter in scraps. That letter recounted all the circumstances of her sojourn at Paris, in a style At my departure, I counted on sacrificing him in which patriotism, death and enjoyment are min upon the summit of the Mountain, but he went no gled as bitterness and sweetness in the last cup of more to the Convention. They are such good citia bougnet of adieu. After having described the zens at Paris, that they do not conceive how a usealmost facetious details of her voyage in company less woman, of whom the longest life would be with the Montaguards and the love with which a good for nothing, can sacrifice herself in cold blood Foung traveller was suddenly inflamed at the sight for her country! .. As I was truly “ de of her, “ I was ignorant,” she pursued, “ that the sang froid” in coming out of the house of Marat, Committee of public safety had interrogated my to be conducted to the Abbaye, I suffered from the fellow-travellers. I sustained in the beginning that'cries of some women. But who ever saves his





country, does not see what it may cost him. May at having been delivered from a tyrant. If I have peace be established as quickly as I desire it! Here sought to persuade you that I was going to Eng. is a grand preliminary. I enjoy a delicious peace land, it is because I hoped to remain unknown. I for two days past. The happiness of my country have found that impossible. I hope that you will makes mine. There is no devotion from which not be harrassed ; in any case, you have defenders one does not draw the more of enjoyment, the more at Caen. I have taken for defender Gustavog it has cost to decide on it. A vivid imagination, a Doulcet de Pontecoulant. Such an attack admits sensitive heart, promised a stormy life. I pray of no defence. It is merely for the form. ldieu, those, who should regret me, to consider it and 10 my dear papa; I pray you to forget me, or rather rejoice. Among the moderns there are few patri- to rejoice at my lot. The cause is beautiful. I ots who know how to sacrifice themselves for their embrace my sister whom I love with all my heart. country. Almost all is egotism. What a sad peo- Do not forget that verse of Corneille, ple to form a republic !"

• The crime makes the shame, not the scaffold! “To-morrow at eight o'clock they judge me."

That allusion to a verse of her ancestor, in re.

calling to her father the pride of name and heroism This letter was interrupted at these words by of blood, seemed to place her action under the safeher transfer to the Conciergerie. She continued guard of the genius of her family. She wardit in these terms in her new prison : “I continue. ed off feebleness or reproach from the heart of her I had had yesterday the idea of making a compli- father, in pointing to him the painter of Roman ment of my portrait to the department of the Cal. sentiments, applauding in advance her devotion. vados. The Committee of public safety has not answered me, and now it is too late! It is ne. cessary to have a defender; that is the rule. I have taken mine on the Mountain. I have thought of asking Robespierre or Chabot.

The next day, at eight in the morning, the genTomorrow at eight o'clock my trial takes place. darmes came to conduct her to the revolutionary Probably at midday, I shall have lived, to make tribunal. The hall was situated above the vaults use of the Roman language. I do not know how of the Conciergerie. A dark, narrow funereal the last moments will pass. It is the end which staircase, creeping in the hollow of thick walls crowns the work. I have no need to affect insen- from the base of the Palais de Justice, conducted sibility, for up to this moment I have not the least the accused to the tribunal, and led back the confear of death. I have never valued life but for its demned into their dungeon. Before ascending she utility. Marat will not go to the Pantheon. Yet arranged her hair and her costume to appear with he well merited it.

decency before death ; then said smiling to the door Remember the affair of Mademoiselle de Forbin. keeper, who was present at these preparations : Here is her address in Switzerland. Say to her, “Monsieur Richard have a care, I pray you, that that I love her with all my heart. I am going to my breakfast may be ready when I shall come write to my father. I do not say any thing to my down froin above. My judges are, without doubt, other friends. I do not ask of them but a prompt in a hurry. I wish to make my last report with forgetfulness : their affliction would dishonor my Madame Richard and you." memory. Say to General Wimpfen, that I believe The hour of the trial of Charlotte Corday was I have aided him in gaining more than one battle, known the evening before in Paris. Curiosity, in facilitating peace. Adieu, Citizen. The pris- horror, interest, pity, had attracted an immense oners of the Conciergerie, far from abusing me, as multitude into the enclosure of the tribunal and the the people in the streets, have the air of pitying halls through which it is entered. When the accusme. isery renders one sympathetic. This is ed approached, a low murmur arose as a maledicmy last reflection."

tion on her name, from the bosom of that multitude.

But scarcely had she cut her way through the crowd, and her supernatural beauty had radiated in all her looks, than this murmur of wrath changed into

a trembling interest and admiration. All the counHer letter to her father, the last written, was tenances passed from horror to tenderness; het short and of a tone in which nature softened, instead features, exalted by the solemnity of the moment of smiling, as in that to Barbaroux. " Pardon me colored by emotion, troubled by the confusion o for having disposed of my life without your per- the young girl under so many eyes, strengthenes mission,” she said. “I have avenged many inno- and ennobled by the grandeur even of a crim cent victims. I have prevented many other disas- which she bore in her soul and on her face as ters. The people, one day disabused, will rejoice' virtue ; finally pride and modesty united and con



founded in her attitude, gave to her aspect a charm " Very few; I saw Larve, the officer of the Mumingled with alarm, which troubled all spirits and nicipality, and the Curé of Saint Jean." all eyes. Her judges even appeared as so many “ Did you confess to a priest who had taken the accused before her. They believed they saw di- oath, or to one who had not, at Caen?" vine justice or ancient Nemesis, substituting con- “I did not go to one or the other." science for law and coming to ask of human jus- “For how long a time had you formed this detice not to absolve her but to recognize and trem- sign?" ble!

“Since the 31st of May, when they arrested here the deputies of the people. I have killed one man to save a hundred thousand. I was a republican long before the revolution.”

Fauchet is confronted with her. “I do not When she was seated on the bench of the ac- know, Fauchet, but by sight,” she said with discosed, they asked her if she had a defender. She dain, “ I regard him as a man without manners and replied that she had charged a friend with that without principles, and I despise him." role ; bat that not seeing him in the enclosure she The accuser reproaching her with having driven presumed he had failed in courage. The presi- the blow from above, downwards that it might be dent then pointed out to her an official defender. more sure, said to her that she must be well exerThis was the young Chauveau Lagorde, illustrious cised in crime without doubt. At this supposition, since by his defence of the Queen, and already which overthrew all her thoughts, in assimilating known for his eloquence and his courage in causes her to murderers by profession, she raised an exand on occasions in which the lawyer participated clamation of shame; “Oh, the monster!" she the perils of the accused. This choice of the cried, " he takes me for an assassin." president indicated a secret thought for her safety. Fouquier Tinville recapitulated the incidents of Chaoveao Lagorde came to place himself at the the cause and concluded for death. bar. Charlotte regarded him with a scrutinizing The defender arose. “ The accused," he said, and anxious eye, as if she had feared that to save avows the crime, she avows a long premeditaher life, her defender might abandon something of tion, and she avows the circumstances the most his own bonor.

overwhelming. Citizens, here is her defence all The widow of Marat deposed with sobs. Char- entire. That imperturbable calm and complete ablotte, moved by the grief of this woman, cut short negation of self, which does not reveal any remorse her deposition, crying out "yes, yes, it is myself in the presence of death, that calm and that abnewho killed him. She recounted then the premed- gation, sublime under one aspect, are not in nature; itation of the act conceived for three months, the they cannot be explained but by the exaltation of intention to strike the tyrant in the midst of the political fanaticism, which has put the poinard in Convention, the stratagem employed to approach her hand. It is for you to judge what weight a him. “I agree,” she said with humility," that fanaticism, so unshaken, should have in the balthese means were little worthy of me but it was ances of justice. I refer myself in this cause to Décessary to appear to esteem this man to arrive your conscience." at him.

Who has inspired you with so much The jury brought in with unanimity the penalty batred against Marat?” they asked of her. of death. She heard the verdict without changing "I had no need of the hate of others,” she re- color

. The president having asked her if she had plied, "I had enough of my own; besides, per- anything to say on the nature of the penalty which sons erecote badly that which they do not con- was inflicted on her, she disdained to respond, and ceive theaiselves."

approaching her defender : “ Monsieur,” she said What did you hate in him ?"

to him, with a penetrating and soft voice, “you have " His crimes !"

defended me as I wished to be, I thank you for it. " In killing him what did you expect ?” I owe you some testimonial of my gratitude and of " To restore peace to my country.

my esteem, I offer one worthy of you. These " Do you believe then that you have assassinated messieurs have just declared my goods confiscated ; all the Marais ?"

I owe something at the prison, I leave as a legacy " He being dead the others will tremble per- to you the debt to pay for me. haps."

Whilst they interrogated her, and the jury gathThey presented to her the knife that she might ered her answers, she perceived in the auditory a recognize it. She repulsed it with a gesture of painter who sketched her features. Without being

interrupted, she turned herself with complaisance, “ Yes," she said, " I recognize it.”

and smiling, on the side of the artist that he might The crime having grown cold, she suffered horror better trace her image. She thought on immorin seeing the instrument which consummated it. tality. She took her position already before pos

"What persons did you visit at Caen ?" terity.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »