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rapid river, to which he had swam with his little son on his back; had he gained the opposite shore his liberty would have been secure ; for, at that period Napoleon had no apparent influence beyond the Rhine. The child, who was but five years old, was generously provided for by his noble commander.
Never was there a more unfeeling and sanguinary disposition concealed under such a prepossessing and even fascinating countenance as that of Colonel Clement. He never forgave my criticism on one of his proclamations as he called them. Being informed of it by one of the Jersey or Guernsey spies that infested the fortress, he was weak enough to upbraid me with it, and, ever after, sought opportunities to render my condition doubly miserable. In May following I became dangerously ill of a putrid fever, which lasted two months ; at the end of which I returned to the fort, having witnessed the death of many of my fellow-captives, during my stay at the hospital. The prisoners were permitted to go to the town-market twice a week, but spirits were not allowed to be brought up into the fort, the proprietor of the Canteen having a monopoly of that article, which was of a quality so inferior that the prisoners frequently infringed the order by introducing some of a better quality concealed in their baskets, bladders, &c. One morning, on our return from market, a general search took place by the guard, who did considerable damage in throwing baskets down, damaging eggs, butter, &c.; at length they seized a large bladder, containing Cognac brandy; this was thought an excellent prize by the guard, to whom it became forfeited. A furious struggle took place betwixt the French sappers and a British prisoner, named Fraser, who, seeing himself nearly overpowered, drew his knife, and, with a triumphant smile, plunged it into the bladder, which discharged its contents over the disappointed guard. Fraser was sadly beaten for his hardihood: a general complaint was made: I was requested to interpret the wishes of my fellow-captives; the commandant reluctantly ordered the losers to be remunerated, but I incurred greater molestation in consequence of my interference in behalf of my countrymen, being still confined in the subterraneous vaults, while others, who had not been there half so long as I, were permitted to lodge in the barracks above. Shortly after, a midshipman named Nairn was run through the heart with a bayonet, through the mere caprice of a centinel; this happened in broad daylight, and was witnessed by numbers, but the perpetrator passed unpunished. Bellehambers, another midshipman, was deprived of the use of his right hand, through a sabre-cut from a gen-d'arme. Innumerable were the indignities and cruelties exercised on the defenceless captives, who were continually subjected to the most mortifying humiliations. Many grievances were redressed, in consequence of the petitions and remonstrances I sent to the French government; but my fate was rendered the more irksome on that account. General Maisonneuve, the commander of the fort, was an inveterate enemy to the British; he was ever ready to join with Colonel Clement in any act of harshness towards the prisoners.
After twenty months' imprisonment in this dreary abode, which had considerably impaired my health, I at length obtained leave to return to Verdun. On my road thither, in September, 1806, I met part of the French army going to the battle of Jena, confident of success ; several of them, with their characteristic boasting, affirmed that, from Prussia they should go to England. Their geographical ignorance is past belief." I have frequently heard Frenchmen assert that there was a passage to England without crossing the sea; others say that no corn grows in England. They who have not conversed with the French peasantry of the interior, will with difficulty credit the extent of their ignorance. Some have positively enquired whether we had any trees or corn growing in England, and whether we did not all live in ships, with sundry other ridiculous questions, which appeared to me the more extraordinary in men so far superior to the peasantry of other countries, both in manners and in conversation. I returned to Verdun where the prosperity of the inhabitants was manifest, nor was it difficult to account for it. In this town, consisting of nine thousand souls, exclusive of British prisoners, there were fifteen bankers, who found their billnegociations very lucrative. It was no uncommon occurrence for an Englishman to wait six and even twelve months for an answer to his bills of exchange; the wily banker taking advantage of the difficulty of correspondence with England; and when, at last, he deigned to settle with you, he deducted a quarter, and sometimes a third, for loss of exchange, &c. On a moderate calculation, many British prisoners did not receive more than two-thirds of the money remitted to them from their friends. It is, therefore, not in the least surprising that so small a population should become generally rich, when there were residing in Verdun Englishmen whose incomes exceeded 10,0001. per annum.
I shall now proceed to give a few anecdotes, which will convey an idea of the intercourse betwixt the British and Verdunians. I have already observed, that when the English first arrived here, they were regarded by the inhabitants with a species of contempt, the latter imagining that we were greatly inferior to them, except when on board of ship. Innumerable occurences had taken place, in which the strength and courage of the two parties had been tried. The Verdunians had now begun tacitly to allow the superiority of their guests, and turned their attention more earnestly to plucking the birds (“plumer les oiseaux" was their phrase) that fell to their lot. Each Englishman was emphatically called by his landlord or landlady, “ mon Anglais," when discoursing of him to an acquaintance; and it was extremely entertaining to observe the jealousy each Verdunian showed towar his townsman, when he suspected him of harbouring any design to decoy “his Englishman” away from him. No circumstance impressed more strongly on the natives the conviction of the physical superiority of the British than the following :—The majority of the young men of the lower town (ville basse) and about forty midshipmen, had a regular battle with sticks. The latter were led on by a youth, named Thorley, who had been recently made a lieutenant. Although in the proportion of ten to one, the Verdunians were defeated and chased by their opponents over the bridge; being there reinforced by the guard, they returned to the attack; the mids then retreated; but Thorley, like a good commander, brought up the rear, and it was not till he had received many severe bruises and disabled several of his assailants, that he surrendered. The next morning he was taken before the commandant, who, when he had examined several of the natives who appeared against him with their heads bound up, he admonished them to be silent, for the honour of their country; Thorley was therefore liberated, and, doubtless, that circumstance will not easily be forgotten at Verdun.
The following case inspired the Verdunians with no small degree of respect for the British character:--A captain of a merchant-vessel, named M'Carthy, had a scuffle with a wood-ranger; the latter complained to General Wirion, who commanded the dépôt, that M'Carthy had ill-treated him, knocking him down every time he attempted to rise. “ Mon ami,” said the general to him, “ lorsqu’un Anglais vous assomme, ne vous relevez jamais que quand il sera parti.”* Poor Wirion! his avarice was the cause of his destruction; it is computed that he extorted nearly a million of francs from the British at Verdun. Napoleon, having sent to him from Paris, tore his epaulettes off, and dismissed him with this disgraceful expression: “ Allez, f—!" He departed, and shot himself in the “ Bois de Boulogne.” When Napoleon heard of his end, he exclaimed' « il y a long tems qu'il auroit dû le faire.”+ Wirion was just and even indulgent to the poorer class of prisoners; the wealthy alone had cause to complain of him. His successor, Colonel Courselles, was a very different character; avaricious, like Wirion, but possessing none of his redeeming qualities—a bitter enemy to Englishmen of all ranks: he was detested even by his countrymen for his excessive tyranny. He was commandant de place in Wirion's time, but his means of doing mischief were much more limited than they became after his superior’s removal. His want of common humanity was only equalled by his extreme peurility. He was more cautious in money matters than his predecessor, but his hankering after the unrighteous mammon was at least equal to Wirion's. Lieut. Massin, of the gens-d'armerie, was sacrificed by him: the
fellow had not sufficient cunning for him, the greater part of the cash that Massin had embezzled from the prisoners having been pocketed hy Courselles. When the trick was discovered, Massin shot himself; but, with his last words, charged Courselles with having made a dupe of him.' When this rash deed was known, the English who had suffered by him, sincerely pitied him, while his countrymen, on the contrary, behaved with the most indecent levity on the occasion ; uttering such expressions as these:“Ah! il est f- —;"“ il ne chantera plus;” « il ne dansera plus;" with others, still more disgusting. It must be confessed, that although no nation on earth pretends to more sentinient than the French, there are none who have less sympathy; their affectation of frankness, delicacy, and affection is easily seen through by an acute observer; their momentary warmth of heart is a mere “ feu de paille;" they may call it philosophy, if they please, but it is a species of philosophy that unfits them for permanent, friendly intercourse.
Dearly did the British pay for their parole, for every class of the natives vied with each other in their shameful exactions. If we took a walk into any of the surrounding villages, the same system of extortion awaited us. On our entrance into the smallest hamlet, even the children seemed to be aware of their right to fleece us; for we
* My friend, is an Englishmay knocks you down, never get up again till he is gone away.
+ He should have done it long ago.
were frequently greeted with the following strain: “Donnez moi un sous s'il vous plait, Monsieur;"* but the most ludicrous idea was their substitution of Goad dam, for Monsieur, which was uttered with a peculiarly imploring accent; the little urchins, doubtless, imagining that no sound could possibly be more acceptable to an English ear than the said Goad dam. It was often used by the Verdunians in a contemptuous manner, to designate an Englishman, as : “ Voilà un G-dd-m;" “C'est un G-dd-m.” † This reminds me of a severe but just censure on our unmeaning use of that absurd expression. In a French play, Le Comte de Grammont, a valet, observes, that he is well acquainted with the English language, for he can pronounce G-d d—m, with all its various intonations; and nothing can exceed the comic effect of five or six examples he gives, in order to illustrate his subject; but the grand finale, wherewith he winds up his argument, is so replete with sound criticism, and the most bitter sarcasm, that every Englishman addicted to swearing, should read it. He says: “Les Anglais ont bien quelques petits mots, par ci par là, pour lier la conversation, mais il est bien facile de s'appercevoir que G-d d—m est le fond de la langue.”. By the by, I think, with Sterne, that the word sacré is still more shocking, when used by a Frenchman, in giving utterance to a revengeful feeling.
We were allowed a circuit of two leagues ; but if any prisoner was found beyond that space, he was closely confined in the citadel, and a reward of fifty francs was paid to those who arrested him.
Several fires occurred at Verdun and its environs, during the residence of the British in that town, in all of which they rendered the most effectual service; but Auxonne, another dépôt, in the South of France, witnessed one of the most heroic deeds that have ever been recorded of our countrymen. A most dreadful fire broke out there during the night, and while the panic-struck inhabitants looked on with stupified amazement, the English prisoners were rushing through the fire and extricating their wives and daughters from the flames, at the imminent hazard of their lives. In short, the town was saved from entire destruction, by their sole exertions.
Having been frequently confined in the citadel of Verdun, in consequence of the escape of several détenus, I at length resolved to attempt to liberate myself; and, in the month of July, 1810, I reached St. Jaloes, a distance of four hundred and eighty miles, but, on stepping into a fishing-boat, I was retaken within sight of a British frigate. From the town-jail I was sent to Solidor tower, at the mouth of the harbour. From the top of this place I witnessed the chasing of several French vessels by the English. In a month I was remanded to Verdun, and now I began to feel real misery; one of my lands being fettered, and attached to any deserter or criminal who was destined for the same route as myself. In this manner I passed through Dol, Rennes, Laval, Versailles, St. Denis, Meaux, Chateau Thiery, Châlons sur Marne, St. Menehould, and Clermont; and returned to Verdun on the 6th of October, after a most painful march
*Give me a half-penny, if you please, Sir.
| The English have, I will allow, some little words to connect the conversation, but it is very easy to perceive that G-dd-m is the foundation of their language.
of five hundred miles, led in chains or fetters as if I had been a malefactor'; whereas my only crime was in endeavouring to regain that liberty I had been deprived of, contrary to all laws of civilized nations. In Britany I frequently was forced to march ten leagues a day, in the heat of summer, exposed to the gaze of an unfeeling populace, who took me for a spy. During this journey, I observed that the gens-d'armes were despotic over the natives ; the poor peasantry trembling at their nod. If any one had the temerity to pass a gens-d'armes without paying him the respect he required, the former was sure to feel the effects of his most rancorous enmity. Even the mayor of a village was subservient to the gens-d'armerie, and I doubt whether the janissaries ever exercised so absolute a power as that of the French gens-d'armerie. Some of them were guilty of the most excessive meanness ; such as eating and drinking at the expense of their prisoners, taking their money, and requesting the landlord to put the bill to their account, which was seldom demanded of them. The houses where we stopped on the road, were termed “Maisons de Correspondance,” as on certain days, previously agreed on, the gensd'armes conducted their prisoners from opposite directions, the general rendezvous being at these houses, which were commonly situated about half-way betwixt the respective prisons. Notwithstanding the exorbitant power possessed by the gens-d'armes, and their general abuse of it, there were many humane and generous men among them; they are commonly better informed than the majority of their countrymen.
On my arrival at Verdun, the commandant, Courselles, ordered me to be confined, on bread and water, in the tower of the citadel. After two months' solitary confinement, I had several companions in my dungeon, who assisted me in opening a passage through the walls of the tower, which were about four feet thick ; just as we had removed the last stone, we were discovered by the jailer, who accidentally laid his hand on one of the paillasses filled with the fragments of the wall. We were then crammed into a dark dungeon, in Porte Chaussée, on Christmas eve; here we remained till the tower was rebuilt ; we were then replaced in our former abode. In about two months our party consisted of seven, namely, Messrs. Thorley, M'Grah, Le Worthy, and Hemer, of the Royal Navy, and Messrs. Melville, Matley, and myself, non-combatants. An extortion had been practised upon us by the jailer, who demanded ten sous per day in this dismal ahode. At the request of my companions, I drew up a remonstrance to the French government, and the grievance was suppressed; but the commandant, in order to revenge himself on me, for having penned the statement of this exaction, caused me to be shut up, by myself, in a dungeon, impenetrable to the light. In about a fortnight I was permitted to rejoin my companions, who had been removed to an upper room in Porte Chaussée. Hemer and I shortly effected our escape; the jailer having mislaid his keys, of which we took possession, and departed. We were retaken near Stenay, in consequence of Hemer's ignorance of the French language. We were then reconducted to our late habitation in Porte Chaussée. I was placed in the receptacle for deserters, &c. where I soon caught a fever, and was transferred to the hospital of Verdun, where I remained six weeks. When convalescent,