( Originally Published 1908 )
IN THE year 1754 there was living in an obscure work. shop in Paris, an engraver by the name of Gratien Phlippon. He had married a very beautiful woman, whose placid temperament and cheerful content contrasted strikingly with the restlessness of her husband. The comfortable yet humble apartments of the engraver were over the shop where he plied his daily toil. He was much dissatisfied with his lowly condition in life, and that his family, in the enjoyment of frugal competence alone, were debarred from those luxuries which were profusely showered upon others. Bitterly and unceasingly he murmured that his lot had been cast in the ranks of obscurity and of unsparing labour, while others, by a more fortunate, although no better merited destiny, were born to ease and affluence, and honour and luxury. Phlippon was a philosopher. Submission was a virtue he had never learned, and never wished to learn.
Madame Phlippon was just the reverse of her husband. She was a woman in whom faith, and trust, and submission predominated. She surrendered her will, without questioning, to all the teachings of the Church. She was placid, contented and cheerful, and undoubtedly sincere in her piety. In every event of life she recognised the overruling hand of Providence, and feeling that the comparatively humble lot assigned her was in accordance with the will of God, she indulged in no repinings.
Of eight children born to these parents, one only, Jeanne Manon, or Jane Mary, survived the hour of birth. Her father first received her to his arms in 1754, and she became the object of his painful and most passionate adoration. Both parents lived in her and for her. She was their earthly all. Even in her infantile years she gave indication of a most brilliant intellect—and her father repined that she should be doomed to a life of obscurity and toil, while the garden of the Tuileries and the Elysian Fields were thronged with children, neither so beautiful nor so intelligent, who were reveling in boundless wealth, and living in a world of luxury and splendour which, to Phlippon's imagination, seemed more alluring than any idea he could form of heaven.
By nature Jane was endowed with a soul of unusual delicacy. From early childhood, all that is beautiful or sublime in nature, in literature, in character, had charms to rivet her entranced attention. She loved to sit alone at her chamber window in the evening of a summer's day, to gaze upon the gorgeous hues of sun-set. Books of poetry and descriptions of heroic character and achievements were her especial delight. "Plutarch's Lives," that book which, more than any other, appears to be the incentive of early genius, was hid beneath her pillow, and read and re-read. Those illustrious heroes of antiquity became the companions of her solitude and of her hourly thoughts. She adored them and loved them as her own most intimate personal friends. Her character became insensibly moulded to their forms, and she was inspired with restless enthusiasm to imitate their deeds. When but twelve years of age her father found her, one day, weeping that she was not born a Roman maiden.
It was, perhaps, the absence of playmates, and the habitual converse with mature minds which, at so early an age, inspired Jane with that insatiate thirst for knowledge which she ever manifested. Books were her only resource in every unoccupied hour. From her walks with her father, and her domestic employments with her mother, she turned to her little library and to her chamber window, and lost herself in the limitless realms of thought.
In a bright summer's afternoon she might be seen sauntering along the boulevards, led by her father's hand, gazing upon that scene of gaiety with which the eye is never wearied. A gilded coach, drawn by the most beautiful horses in the richest trappings, sweeps along the streets—a gorgeous vision. Phlippon takes his little daughter in his arms to show her the sight, and, as she gazes in infantile wonder and delight, the discontented father says:
"Look at that lord and lady, and child, lolling so voluptuously in their coach. They have no right there. Why must I and my child walk on this hot pavement, while they repose on velvet cushions and revel in all luxury? A time will come when the people will awake to the consciousness of their wrongs, and their tyrants will tremble before them."
He continues his walk in moody silence, brooding over his sense of injustice. They return to their home.
Jane wishes that her father kept a carriage, and liveried servants and outriders. She thinks of politics, and of the tyranny of kings and nobles, and of the unjust inequalities of man. She retires to the solitude of her loved chamber window, and reads of Aristides the Just, of Themistocles with his Spartan virtues, of Brutus, and of the mother of the Gracchi. Greece and Rome rise before her in all their ancient renown. She despises the frivolity of Paris and her youthful bosom throbs with the desire of being noble in spirit and of achieving great exploits. Thus, when other children of her age were playing with their dolls, she was dreaming of the prostration of nobles and of the overthrow of thrones. The education of young ladies, at that time in France, was conducted almost exclusively by nuns in convents. The idea of the silence and solitude of the cloister in-spired the highly imaginative girl. Her mother's spirit of religion was exerting a powerful influence over her, and one evening she fell at her mother's feet and, bursting into tears, besought that she might be sent to a convent to prepare to receive her first Christian communion in a suitable frame of mind.
The convent of the sisterhood of the Congregation in Paris was selected for Jane. She subsequently wrote:
While pressing my dear mother in my arms, at the moment of parting with her for the first time in my life, I thought my heart would break; but I was acting in obedience to the voice of God, and I passed the threshold of the cloister, tearfully offering up to him the greatest sacrifice I was capable of making. This was on the 7th of May, 1765, when I was eleven years and two months old. The first night I spent in the convent was a night of agitation. I was no longer under the paternal roof. I was at a distance from that kind mother, who was doubtless thinking of me with affectionate emotion. A dim light diffused through the room in which I had been put to bed with four children of my own age. I stole softly from my couch and drew near the window, the light of the moon enabling me to distinguish the garden, which it overlooked. The deepest silence prevailed around, and I listened to it, if I may use the expression, with a sort of respect. Lofty trees cast their gigantic shadows along the ground, and promised a secure asylum to meditation. I lifted up my eyes to the heavens; they were unclouded and serene. I imagined that I felt the presence of the Deity smiling upon my sacrifice, and already offering me a reward in the hope of a celestial abode. Tears of delight flowed down my cheeks. I repeated my vows with holy ecstasy, and went to bed again to taste the slumber of God's chosen children.
Two years after this she was taken to pass a week at the luxurious abodes of Maria Antoinette. Versailles was in itself a city of palaces and of courtiers, where all that could dazzle the eye in regal pomp and voluptuousness was concentred. Most girls of her age would have been enchanted and bewildered by this display. Jane was permitted to witness, and partially to share, all the pomp of luxuriously spread tables and presentations, and court balls, and illuminations and the gilded equipages of ambassadors and princes, but this maiden, just emerging from the period of child-hood and the seclusion of the cloister, undazzled by all this brilliance, looked sadly on the scene. The servility of the courtiers excited her contempt. She contrasted the boundless profusion and extravagance which filled these palaces with the absence of comfort in the dwellings of the over-taxed poor, and pondered deeply the value of that despotism which starved the millions to pander to the dissolute indulgence of the few. Her personal pride was also severely stung by perceiving that her own attractions, mental and physical, were entirely overlooked by the crowds which were bowing before power. Disgusted with the frivolity of the living, she sought solace in companionship with the illustrious dead. She chose the gardens for her resort, and, lingered around the statues which embellished scenes of almost fairy enchantment.
"How do you enjoy your visit, my daughter?" inquired her mother.
"I shall be glad when it is ended," was the characteristic reply, "else, in a few more days, I shall so detest all the persons I see that I shall not know what to do with my hatred."
"Why, what harm have these persons done you, my child?"
"They make me feel injustice and look upon absurdity," replied this philosopher of thirteen.
Soon after this Jane entered her fourteenth year and her mother, conscious of the importance to her child of a knowledge of domestic duties, took her to the market to obtain meat and vegetables, and occasionally placed upon her the responsibility of the family purchases. The unaffected dignity with which the imaginative girl yielded herself to these most prosaic avocations was such, that when she entered the market, the fruit women hastened to serve her. It is quite remarkable that Jane, apparently, never turned with repugnance from these humble avocations of domestic life. It speaks most highly in behalf of the sound judgment of her mother, that she was enabled thus successfully to allure her daughter from her realms of romance to those unattractive practical duties which our daily necessities demand. At one hour this ardent maiden might have been seen in her little chamber absorbed in studies of deepest research. The highest themes which can elevate the mind of man claimed her delighted reveries. The next hour she might be seen in the kitchen, under the guidance of her mother, receiving from her judicious lips lessons upon frugality, and industry, and economy. The white apron was bound around her waist, and her hands, which, but a few moments before, were busy with the circles of the celestial globe, were now occupied in preparing vegetables for dinner. There was ' thus united in the character of Jane the appreciation of all that is beautiful and sublime in the world of fact and the world of imagination, and also domestic skill and practical common sense. She was thus prepared to fascinate by the graces of a refined and polished mind, and to create for herself, in the midst of all vicissitudes, a region of loveliness in which her spirit could ever dwell; and, at the same time she possessed that sagacity and tact, and those habits of usefulness, which prepared her to meet calmly all the changes of fortune, and over them all to triumph. With that self-appreciation which with her was frankness rather than vanity she subsequently writes:
This mixture of serious studies, agreeable relaxations and domestic cares, was rendered pleasant by my mother's good management, and fitted me for everything. It seemed to fore-bode the vicissitudes of future life, and enabled me to bear them. In every place I am at home. I can prepare my own dinner with as much address as Philopoemen cut wood; but no one seeing me thus engaged would think it an office in which I ought to be employed.
As years passed on through the friendship of a family of noble rank, Jane was often introduced to the great world.
The family became much interested in the fascinating young lady, and her brilliant talents and accomplishments secured her invitations to many social interviews. This slight acquaintance with the nobility of France did not however, elevate them in her esteem. She found the conversation of the old marquises and antiquated dowagers who frequented the saloon of Madame De Boismorel more insipid and illiterate than that of the tradespeople who visited her father's shop, and upon whom these nobles looked down with contempt. Jane was also disgusted with the many indications she saw, not only of indolence, but of dissipation and utter want of principle. Her good sense enabled her to move among these people as a studious observer of human nature, neither adopting their costume nor imitating their manners. She was very unostentatious and simple in her dress, and never, in the slightest degree, affected the mannerism of mindless and artless fashion.
Madame De Boismorel, at one time eulogising her taste in these respects, remarked:
"You do not love feathers, do you, Miss Phlippon? How very different you are from the giddy-headed girls around us!"
"I never wear feathers," Jane replied, "because I do not think that they would correspond with the condition in life of an artist's daughter who is going about on foot."
"But were you in a different situation in life, would you then wear feathers?"
"I do not know what I should do in that case. I attach very slight importance to such trifles. I merely consider what is suitable for myself, and should be very sorry to judge of others by the superficial information afforded by their dress."
M. Phlippon now began to advance rapidly in a career of dissipation. Jane did everything in her power to lure him to love his home. All her efforts were unavailing. Her situation was now painful in the extreme.
Her mother, who had been the guardian angel of her life, was sleeping in the grave. The father was daily becoming more neglectful and unkind to his daughter. Under these circumstances, Jane, by the advice of friends, had resort to a legal process, by which there was secured to her, from the wreck of her mother's fortune, an annual income of about one hundred dollars.
In these gloomy hours which clouded the morning of her day, Jane found an unfailing resource and solace in her love of literature. With pen in hand, extracting beautiful passages and expanding suggested thoughts, she forgot her griefs and beguiled many hours, which would otherwise have been burdened with wretchedness.
Maria Antoinette, woe-worn and weary, in tones of despair uttered the exclamation:
"Oh! what a resource amid the casualties of life must there be in a highly cultivated mind."
The maiden could utter the same exclamation in accents of joy.
When Jane was in the convent, she became acquainted with a young lady from Amiens, Sophia Can-net. They formed for each other a strong attachment and commenced a correspondence which continued for many years. There was a gentleman in Amiens by the name of Roland de la Platière, born of an opulent family, and holding the quite important office of inspector of manufactures. His time was mainly occupied in travelling and study. Being deeply interested in all subjects relating to political economy, he had devoted much attention to that science, and had written several treatises upon commerce, mechanics and agriculture which had given him, in the literary and scientific world, no little celebrity. He frequently visited the father of Sophia. She often spoke to him of her friend Jane, showed him her portrait, and read to him extracts from her glowing letters. The calm philosopher became very much interested in the enthusiastic maiden, and entreated Sophia to give him a letter of introduction to her, upon one of his annual visits to Paris. Sophia had also often written to Jane of her father's friend, whom she regarded with so much reverence.
Jane, the enthusiastic, romantic Jane, saw in the serene philosopher one of the sages of antiquity, and almost literally bowed and worshipped. All the sentiments of M. Roland were in accordance with the most cherished emotions which glowed in her mind. She found what she had ever been seeking, but had never found before, a truly sympathetic soul. She looked up to M. Roland as to a superior being—to an oracle, by whose decisions she could judge whether her own opinions were right or wrong. It is true that M. Roland never entered those airy realms of beauty and regions of romance where Jane loved, at times, to revel. And perhaps Jane venerated him still more for his more stern and unimaginative philosophy. But his meditative wisdom, his abstraction from the frivolous pursuits 0f life, his high ambition, his elevated pleasures, his consciousness of superiority over the mass of his fellow men, and his sleepless desire to be a benefactor of humanity, were all traits of character which resistlessly attracted the admiration of Jane. She adored him as a disciple adores his master. She listened eagerly to all his words, and loved communion with his thoughts. M. Roland was by no means insensible to this homage and he was charmed with her society because she was so delighted with his own conversation. Several years after their acquaintance began M. Roland made an avowal of his attachment. Jane knew very well the pride of the Roland family, and that her worldly circumstances were such that the connection would not seem an advantageous one. She also was too proud to enter into a family who might feel dishonoured by the alliance. She, therefore, frankly told him that she felt much honoured by his addresses, and that she esteemed him more highly than any other man she had met. Her father was a ruined man, however, and by his increasing debts and his errors still deeper disgrace might be entailed upon all connected with him, and she could not think of allowing M. Roland to make his generosity to her a source of future mortification to himself.
The more she manifested this elevation of soul, in which Jane was perfectly sincere, the more earnestly did M. Roland persist in his plea. At last Jane, influenced by his entreaties, consented that he should make proposals to her father. He wrote to M. Phlippon. In reply he received an insulting letter, containing a blunt refusal. M. Phlippon declared that he had no idea of having for a son-in-law a man of such rigid principles, who would ever be reproaching him for all his little errors. He also told his daughter that she would find in a man of such austere virtue not a companion and an equal, but a tyrant. Jane laid this refusal of her father deeply to heart, and resolved that if she could not marry the man of her choice, she would marry no one else. She wrote to M. Roland, requesting him to abandon his design, and not to expose himself to any further affronts. She then requested permission of her father to retire to a convent.
The scanty income she had saved from her mother's property rendered it necessary for her to live with the utmost frugality. She determined to regulate her expenses in accordance with this small sum. Potatoes, rice, and beans, with a little salt, and occasionally the luxury of a little butter, were her only food. She allowed herself to leave the convent but twice a week: once, to call for an hour upon a relative, and once to visit her father, and look after his linen. She had a little room under the roof in the attic, where the pattering of the rain upon the tiles soothed and lulled her to sleep by night. She carefully secluded herself from association with the other inmates of the convent, receiving only a visit of an hour each evening from the much-loved Sister Agatha. Her time she devoted, with unremitting diligence to those literary avocations in which she found so much delight.
The quiet and seclusion of this life had many charms for Jane. Indeed, a person with such resource for enjoyment within herself could never be very weary. Several months thus glided away in tranquillity. She occasionally walked in the garden, at hours when no one else was there. The resignation, which she had so long cultivated; the peaceful conscience she enjoyed, in view of duty performed; the elevation of spirit which enabled her to rise superior to misfortune; the methodical arrangement of time, which assigned to each hour its appropriate duty; the habit of close application, which riveted her attention to her studies; the highly cultivated taste and buoyantly winged imagination, which opened before her all the fairy realms of fancy, were treasures which gilded her cell and enriched hex heart.
In the course of five or six months M. Roland again visited Paris, and called at the convent to see Jane. He saw her pale and pensive face behind a grating, and the sight of one who had suffered so much from her faithful love for him, and the sound of her voice, which ever possessed a peculiar charm, revived in his mind those impressions which had been somewhat fading away. He again renewed his offer and entreated her to allow the marriage ceremony at once to be performed. Jane, without much delay, yielded to his appeals. They were married in the winter of 1780. Jane was then twenty-five years of age. Her husband was twenty years her senior.
The first year of their marriage life they passed in Paris. It was to Madame Roland a year of great enjoyment. Her husband was publishing a work upon the arts, and she, with all the energy of her enthusiastic mind, entered into all his literary enterprises. With great care and accuracy she prepared his manuscripts for the press and corrected the proofs. She lived in the study with him, became the companion of all his thoughts, and his assistant in all labours. The only recreations in which she indulged, during the winter, were to attend a course of lectures upon natural history and botany. M. Roland had hired ready furnished lodgings. She, well instructed by her mother in domestic duties, observing that all kinds of cooking did not agree with him, took pleasure in preparing his food with her own hands. Her husband engrossed her whole time, and, being naturally rather austere and imperious, he secluded her from the society of others and monopolised all her capabilities of friendly feeling.
At the close of the year the couple went to Amiens and soon after was born a daughter, her only child, whom she nurtured with the most assiduous care. Her literary labours were, however, unremitted, and she still lived in the study with her books and her pen. M. Roland was writing several articles for an encyclopaedia. She aided most efficiently in collecting the materials and arranging the matter. Indeed, she wielded a far more vigorous pen than he did, Her copiousness of language, her facility of expression and the play of her fancy, gave her the command of a very fascinating style; and M. Roland obtained the credit for many passages rich in diction and beautiful in imagery for which he was indebted to the glowing imagination of his wife. Frequent sickness of her husband alarmed her for his life. The tenderness with which she watched over him strengthened the tie which united them. He could not but love a young and beautiful wife so devoted to him. She could not but love one upon whom she was conferring such rich blessings. Their little daughter, Eudora, was a source of great delight to the fond parents, and Madame Roland took the deepest interest in the developments of her mind. The office of M. Roland was highly lucrative, and his literary projects successful. They remained in Amiens four years.
Later they retired to La Platière, the paternal estate of M. Roland, situated at the base of the mountains near Lyons in the valley of the Saône. It is a region solitary and wild, with rivulets meandering down from the mountains, fringed with willows and poplars, and threading their way through narrow, yet smooth and fertile meadows luxuriant with vineyards. A large, square stone house, with regular windows and a roof nearly flat, of red tiles constituted the comfortable, spacious and substantial mansion.
Her mode of life during the five calm and sunny years at La Platiere must have been exceedingly attractive. She rose with the sun, devoted sundry attentions to her husband and child, and personally superintended the arrangements for breakfast, taking an affectionate pleasure in preparing her husband's frugal food with her own hands. That social meal being passed, M. Roland entered the library for his intellectual toil, taking with him for his silent companion the idolised little Eudora. She amused herself with her pencil or reading or other studies, which her father and mother superintended. Madame Roland, in the meantime devoted herself, with most systematic energy, to her domestic concerns. She was a perfect housekeeper and each morning all the interests of her family, from the cellar to the garret, passed under her eye. She superintended the preservation of the fruit, the sorting of the linen, and those other details of domestic life which engross the attention of a good housewife. The systematic division of time, which seemed to be an instinctive principle of her nature, enabled her to accomplish all this in two hours. She had faithful and devoted servants to do the work. The superintendence was all that was required. This genius to superintend and be the head, while others contribute the hands, is not the most common of human endowments. Madame Roland, having thus attended to her domestic concerns, laid aside those cares for the remainder of the day, and entered the study to join her husband in his labours there.
At the close of the literary labours of the morning Madame Roland met her guests at the dinner table. The labour of the day was then over. The repast was prolonged with social converse. After dinner they walked in the garden, sauntered through the vineyard and looked at the innumerable objects of interest which are ever to be found in the yard of a spacious farm. Madame Roland frequently retired to the library to write letters to her friends or to superintend the lessons of Eudora. Occasionally, of a fine day, she would walk for several miles, calling at the cottages of the peasantry, whom she greatly endeared to her by her unvarying kindness. In the evening, after tea, they again resorted to the library. Guests of distinguished name and influence were frequently with them, and the hours glided swiftly, cheered by the brilliance of philosophy and genius. The journals of the day were read, Madame Roland being usually called upon as reader. When not thus reading, she usually sat at her work-table, employing her fingers with her needle, while she took part in the conversation.
"This kind of life," says Madame Roland, "would be very austere, were not my husband a man of great merit, whom I love with my whole heart. I congratulate myself on enjoying it; and I exert my best endeavours to make it last."
Again she draws the captivating picture of rural pleasures:
"I am preserving pears which will be delicious. We are drying raisins and prunes. We overlook the servants busy in the vineyard; repose in the shady groves, and on the green meadows; gather walnuts from the frees; and having collected our stock of fruit for the winter, spread it to dry. After breakfast this morning we are all going in a body to gather almonds. Throw off, then, dear friend, your fetters for a while, and come and join us in our retreat. You will find here true friend-ship and real simplicity of heart."
Madame Roland was thus living at La Platiere, in the enjoyment of all that this world can give of peace and happiness, when the first portentious mutterings of the French Revolution fell upon her ears. She eagerly caught the sounds, and, believing them the precursor of blessings, rejoiced in the assurance that the hour was approaching when long-oppressed humanity would reassert its rights and achieve its triumph. Little did she dream of the woes which in surging billows were to roll over her country and which were to engulf her and all whom she loved in their tide. Her faith in human nature was so strong that she could foresee no obstacles and no dangers in the way of immediate disfranchisement from all laws and usages which her judgment disapproved. Her whole soul was aroused and she devoted all her affections and every energy of her mind to the welfare of the human race.
Louis XVI. and Maria Antoinette had but recently inherited the throne of the Bourbons. Louis was benevolent, but destitute of the decision of character requisite to hold the reins of government in a stormy period. Maria Antoinette had neither culture of mind nor knowledge of the world. She was an amiable but spoiled child, with native nobleness of character, but with those defects which are the natural consequence of the frivolous education she had received. She thought never of duty and responsibility; always and only of pleasure. It was her misfortune rather than her fault that the idea never entered her mind that kings and queens had aught else to do than to indulge in luxury. It would be hardly possible to conceive of two characters less qualified to occupy the throne in stormy times than were Louis and Maria. The people were slowly, but with resistless power, rising against the abuses of the aristocracy and the monarchy. Louis, a man of unblemished kindness, was made the scapegoat for the sins of oppressive, profligate princes, who for centuries had trodden with iron hoofs upon the necks of their subjects. The accumulated hate of ages was poured upon his head.
The National Assembly consisted of the nobility, the higher clergy, and representatives, chosen by the people, from all parts of France.
M. Roland, who was quite an idol with the populace of Lyons and its vicinity, was chosen representative to the Assembly from the city of Lyons. In that busy city the revolutionary movement had begun with great power, and the name of Roland was the rallying point ' of the people now struggling to escape from oppression. M. Roland spent some time in the city, drawn thither by the intense interest of the times, and in the salon of Madame Roland meetings were every evening held by the most influential men of the revolutionary party. Her ardour stimulated their zeal, and her well-stored mind and fascinating eloquence guided their councils.
In this rising conflict between plebeian and patrician, between democrat and aristocrat, the position in which M. Roland and wife were placed, as most conspicuous and influential members of the revolutionary party, arrayed against them, with daily increasing animosity, the aristocratic community of Lyons. Each day their names were pronounced by the advocates of reform with more enthusiasm and by their opponents with deepening hostility. The applause and the censure alike invigorated Madame Roland, and her whole soul became absorbed in the idea of popular liberty. This object became her passion, and she devoted herself to it with the concentration of every energy of mind and heart.
On the 20th of February, 1791, Madame Roland accompanied her husband to Paris, as he took his seat in the National Assembly. Her persuasive influence was dictating those measures which were driving the ancient nobility of France from their chateaux, and her vigorous mind was guiding those blows before which the throne of the Bourbons trembled. The unblemished and incorruptible integrity of M. Roland, his simplicity of manners and ability, invested him immediately with much authority among his associates. The brilliance of his wife also reflected much lustre upon his name. Madame Roland with her growing zeal, had just written a pamphlet upon the new order of things, in language so powerful and impressive that more than sixty thousand copies had been sold—an enormous number, considering the comparative fewness of readers at that time. She, of course, was received with the most flattering attention, and great deference was paid to her opinions. She attended daily the sittings of the Assembly, and listened with the deepest interest to the debates.
All her tastes were with the ancient nobility and their defenders. All her principles were with the people. And as she contrasted the unrefined exterior and clumsy speech of the democratic leaders with the courtly bearing and elegant diction of those who rallied around the throne, she was aroused to a more vehement desire for the elevation of those with whom she had cast in her lot. The conflict with the nobles was of short continuance. The energy of rising democracy soon vanquished them.
The most moderate party was called the Girondist. It was so called because their most prominent leaders were from the department of the Gironde. They would deprive the King of many of his prerogatives, but not of his crown. They would take from him his despotic power, but not his life. They would raise the mass of the people to the enjoyment of liberty, but to liberty controlled by vigorous law. Opposed to them were the Jacobins — far more radical in their reform. They would break down all privileged orders, confiscate the property of the nobles and place prince and beggar on the footing of equality. These were the two great par-ties into which revolutionary France was divided and the conflict between them was the most fierce and implacable earth has ever witnessed.
M. Roland and wife gathered around them every evening many of the most influential members of the Assembly. They attached themselves with all their zeal and energy to the Girondists. Four evenings of every week the leaders of this party met in the salon of Madame Roland. to deliberate respecting their measures.
The powerful influence which Madame Roland was thus exerting could not be concealed. She appeared to have no ambition for personal renown. She sought only to elevate the position and expand the celebrity of her husband. It was whispered from ear to ear, and now and then openly asserted in the Assembly, that the hold and decisive measures of the Girondists receives their impulse from the lovely wife of M. Roland. She also furnished many very able articles for a widely circulated journal, established by the Girondists for the advocacy of their political views.
The spirit of the revolution was advancing with giant strides, and the throne was reeling beneath the blows of the people. Massacres were rife all over the king-dom. The sky was nightly illumined by conflagrations. Nobles were abandoning their estates and escaping from perils and death to refuge in the little army of emigrants at Coblentz. The King, insulted and a prisoner, reigned but in name. He hoped, by the appointment of a Republican ministry to pacify the democratic spirit.
He yielded to the pressure, dismissed his ministers, and surrendered himself to the Girondists for the appointment of a new ministry. The Girondists called upon M. Roland to take the important post of Minister of the Interior. It was a perilous position to fill, but what danger will not ambition, face? In the present posture of affairs the Minister of the Interior was the monarch of France. M. Roland smiled nervously at the power which, thus unsolicited, was passing into his hands. Madame Roland, whose all-absorbing passion it now was to elevate her husband to the highest summits of greatness, was gratified in view of the honour and agitated in view of the peril; but, to her exalted spirit, the greater the danger, the more heroic the act.
"The burden is heavy," she said; "but Roland has a great consciousness of his own powers, and would derive fresh strength from the feeling of being useful to liberty and his country."
In March, 1792, he entered upon his arduous and exalted office. When M. Roland made his first appearante at court instead of arraying himself in the court dress, he affected in his costume the simplicity of his principles. He had not forgotten the impression produced in France by Franklin, as in republican simplicity he moved among the glittering throng at Versailles. He accordingly presented himself at the Tuileries in a plain black coat, with a round hat, and dusty shoes fastened with ribbons instead of buckles. The courtiers were indignant. The king was highly displeased at what he considered an act of disrespect. The master of ceremonies was in consternation, and exclaimed with a look of horror to General Damuriez:
"My dear sir, he has not even buckles on his shoes ! "
"Mercy upon us!" exclaimed the old general, with the most laughable expression of affected gravity, " we shall then all go to ruin together ! "
M. Roland after his first interview with the monarch assured his wife that the community had formed a totally erroneous estimate of the King ; that he was a hearty supporter of the Constitution which had been forced upon him. The prompt reply of Madame Roland displayed even more than her characteristic sagacity.
"If Louis is sincerely a friend of the Constitution, he must be virtuous beyond the common race of mortals. Mistrust your own virtue, M. Roland. You are only an honest countryman wandering amid a crowd of courtiers. They speak our language ; we do not know theirs. No ! Louis cannot love the chains that fetter him. He may feign to caress them. He thinks only of how he can spurn them. No man likes his humiliation. Trust in human nature , that never deceives. Distrust courts. Your virtue is too elevated to see the snares which courtiers spread beneath your feet,"
From all the spacious apartments of the mansion alloted as the residence of the Minister of the Interior Madame Roland selected a small and retired parlour, which she had furnished with every attraction as a library and a study. This was her much-loved retreat, and here M. Roland, in the presence of his wife, was accustomed to see his friends in all their confidential intercourse. But the position of the Girondists began to be more and more perilous. The army of emigrant nobles at Coblentz, within the dominions of the King of Prussia, was rapidly increasing in numbers. There were hundreds of thousands in France, the most illustrious in rank and opulence, who would join such an army. The people all believed that Louis wished to escape from Paris and head that army. On the other hand, they saw another party, the Jacobin, noisy, turbulent, sanguinary and threatening with destruction all connected in any way with the execrated throne. M. Roland was urged to present to the throne a most earnest letter of expostulation and advice. Madame Roland at down at her desk and wrote the letter for her husband. It was expressed in that glowing style so eminently at her command. Its eloquence was inspired by the foresight she had of impending perils. M. Roland, almost trembling in view of its boldness and its truths, presented the letter to the King. Its last sentences will give some idea of its character:
Love, serve the Revolution, and the people wiII love it and serve it in you. Ratify the measures to extirpate their fanaticism. Paris trembles in view of its danger. Surround its walls with an army of defence. Delay longer, and you will be deemed a conspirator and an accomplice. Just Heaven! hast thou stricken kings with blindness? I know that truth is rarely welcomed coined at the foot of thrones. I know, too, that the withholding of truth from kings renders revolutions so often necessary. As a citizen, a minister, I owe truth to the King, and nothing shall prevent me from making it reach his ear.
This celebrated letter was presented to the King on the 11th of June, 1792. On the same day M. Roland received a letter from the King informing him that he was dismissed from office.
"Here am I, dismissed from office," was M. Roland's exclamation to his wife on his return home.
"Present your letter to the Assembly, that the nation may see for what counsel you have been dismissed," replied the undaunted wife.
M. Roland did so. He was received as a martyr to patriotism. The letter was read amid the loudest applause. It was ordered to be printed and circulated by tens of thousands through the kingdom; and there came rolling back upon the metropolis the echo of the most tumultuous indignation and applause. The famous letter was read by all France—nay, more, by all Europe. Roland was a hero. Upon this wave of enthusiastic popularity Madame Roland and her husband retired from the magnificent palace where they had dwelt for so short a time and selected for their retreat very humble apartments in an apparently obscure street.
But M. Roland and wife were more powerful now than ever before. The Ietter had placed them in the front ranks of the friends of reform, and enshrined them in the hearts of the ever fickle populace. Even the Jacobins were compelled to swell the universal voice of commendation. M. Roland's apartments were ever thronged. All important plans were discussed and shaped by him and his wife before they were presented to the Assembly.
The outcry against M. Roland's dismissal was falling in thunder tones on the ear of the King. This act had fanned those flames of revolutionary frenzy which were now glaring in every part of France. The people, intoxicated and maddened by the discovery of their power, were now arrayed, with irresistible thirstings for destruction and blood, against the King, the court, and the nobility. There was no hope for Louis but in the recall of M. Roland. The Jacobins were upon him in locust legions. M. Roland alone could bring the Girondists, as a shield, between the throne and the mob. He was recalled, and again moved in calm triumph from his obscure chambers to the palace of the minister. If Madame Roland's letter dismissed him from office, her letter also restored him again with an enormous accumulation of power.
Madame Roland was far more conscious of the peril than her husband. With intense emotion, but calmly and firmly, she looked upon the gathering storm, The peculiarity of her character, and her great moral courage, was illustrated by the mode of life she vigorously adopted. She was entirely undazzled, and resolved that, consecrating all her energies to the demands of the tempestuous times, she would waste no time in fashionable parties and heartless visits. Selecting for her own use one of the smallest parlours, she furnished it as her library. Here she lived engrossed in study, busy with her pen, and taking an unseen but most active part in all those measures which were literally agitating the whole civilised world. Her little library was the sanctuary for all confidential conversation upon matters of state, Here her husband met his political friends to mature their measures. She wrote many of his proclamations, his letters, his state papers, and with all the glowing fervour of an enthusiastic woman. She writes:
Without me my husband would have been quite as good a minister, for his knowledge, his activity, his integrity were all his own; but with me he attracted more attention, because I infused into his writings that mixture of spirit and gentleness, of authoritative reason and seducing sentiment, which is, perhaps, only to be found in the language of a woman who has a clear head and a feeling heart.
Anarchy now reigned throughout France. The King and the royal family were imprisoned in the Temple. The Girondists in the National Convention, and M.Roland at the head of the ministry, were struggling to restore the dominion of law, and, if possible, to save the life of the King. The Jacobins, who, unable to resist the popularity of M. Roland, had, for a time, cooperated with the Girondists, now began to separate themselves again more widely from them. They flattered the mob. They encouraged every possible demonstration of lawless violence. In tones daily increasing in boldness and efficiency, they declared the Girondists to be the friends of the monarch, and the enemies of popular liberty.
Madame Roland, in the name of her husband, drew up for the Convention the plan of a republic as a substitute for the throne. From childhood she had yearned for a republic. Now the throne and hereditary rank were virtually abolished, and all France clamoured for a republic. Her husband was nominally Minister of the Interior,, but his power was gone. The mob of Paris had usurped the place of King, and Constitution and law. The Jacobins were attaining the decided ascendency. The guillotine was daily crimsoned with the blood of the noblest citizens of France. The streets and the prisons were polluted with the massacre of the innocent.
M. Roland was almost frantic in view of these horrors which he had no power to quell. The mob, headed by the Jacobins, had now the complete ascendency, and he was minister but in name. He urged the adoption of immediate and energetic measures to arrest these execrable deeds of lawless violence. Many of the Girondists in the Assembly gave vehement utterance to their execration of the massacres. Others were intimidated by the weapons which the Jacobins were now so effectually wielding. Madame Roland distinctly saw and deeply felt the peril to which she and her friends were exposed. She knew, and they all knew, that defeat was death.
The question between the Girondist and the Jacobin was: "Who shall lie down on the guillotine?" For some time the issue of the struggle was uncertain. The Jacobins summoned their allies, the mob. They surrounded the doors and the windows of the Assembly, and with their howlings sustained their friends. The Girondists found themselves, at the close of the struggle, defeated, yet not so decidedly but that they still clung to hope.
M. Roland, who had not yet entirely lost, with the people, that popularity which swept him again into the office of Minister of the Interior, now presented to the Assembly his resignation, of power which was merely nominal. Great efforts had for some time been made by his adversaries, to turn the tide of popular hatred against him, and especially against his wife. Madame Roland might have fled from these perils, and have retired with her husband to tranquillity and safety, but she urged M. Roland to remain at his post and resolved to remain herself and meet her destiny, whatever it might be.
The Jacobins now made a direct and infamous attempt to turn the rage of the populace against Madame Roland. She was summoned to present herself before the Convention, to confront her accuser, and defend herself from the scaffold. Her gentle yet imperial spirit was undaunted by the magnitude of the peril. Her name had often been mentioned in the Assembly as the inspiring genius of the most influential party which had risen up amid the storms of the Revolution. Her talents, her accomplishments, her fascinating eloquence, had spread her renown widely through Europe.
The aspect of a woman combining in her person and mind all the attractions of nature and genius, entering this vast assembly of irritated men to speak in defence of her life, at once hushed the clamour of hoarse voices and subdued the rage of angry disputants. Silence filled the hall. Every eye was fixed upon her. She stood before the bar.
"What is your name?" inquired the president.
She paused for a moment, and then in clear and liquid tones answered:
"Roland! A name of which I am proud, for it is that of a good and an honourable man."
"Do you know Achille Viard?" the president inquired. "I have once, and but once, seen him."
"What has passed between you?"
"Twice he has written to me, soliciting an interview.
Once I saw him. After a short conversation, I perceived that he was a spy, and dismissed him with the contempt he deserved."
Briefly, in tremulous tones of voice, but with a spirit of firmness which no terrors could daunt, she entered upon her defence. It was the first time that a woman's voice had been heard in the midst of the clamour of these enraged combatants. The Assembly, unused to such a scene, were fascinated by her attractive eloquence. Madame Roland was acquitted by acclamation. Upon the spot the president proposed that the marked respect of the Convention be conferred upon Madame Roland. With enthusiasm the resolution was carried. As she retired from the hall, her bosom glowing with the excitement of the triumph she had won, her ear was greeted with the enthusiastic applause of the whole Assembly. The eyes of all France had been attracted to her as she thus defended herself and her friends, and confounded her enemies.
The most distressing embarrassments now surrounded M. Roland. He could not abandon power without abandoning himself and his supporters in the Assembly to the guillotine; and while continuing in power, he was compelled to witness deeds of atrocity from which not only his soul revolted, but to which it was necessary for him apparently to give his sanction. Thus situated, he sent in his final resignation and retired to humble lodgings in one of the obscure streets of Paris. Here, anxiously watching the progress of events, he began to make preparations to leave the mob-enthralled metropolis and seek a retreat in the calm seclusion of La Platiere. Neither the sacredness of law nor the weapons of their friends could longer afford them any protection. The danger became so imminent that the friends of Madame Roland brought her the dress of a peasant girl, and en-treated her to put it on, as a disguise and escape by night, that her husband might follow after her, unencumbered by his family; but she proudly repelled that which she deemed a cowardly artifice. She threw the dress aside, exclaiming:
"I am ashamed to resort to any such expedient. I will neither disguise myself, nor make any attempt at secret escape. My enemies may find me always in my place. If I am assassinated it shall be in my own home. I owe my country an example of firmness, and I will give it."
The gray of a dull and sombre morning was just beginning to appear as Madame Roland threw herself upon a bed for a few moments of repose. Overwhelmed by sorrow and fatigue, she had just fallen asleep, when a band of armed men rudely broke into her house, and demanded to be conducted to her apartment. She knew too well the object of the summons. The order for her arrest was presented her. She calmly read it, and requested permission to write to a friend. The request was granted. When the note was finished, the officer informed her that it would be necessary for him to be made acquainted with its contents. She quietly tore it into fragments and cast it into the fire. Then, imprinting her last kiss upon the cheek of her unconscious child, with the composure which such a catastrophe would naturally produce in so heroic a mind, she left her home for the prison. As she was led from the house a vast crowd collected around the door, who, believing her to be a traitor to her country, and in league with her enemies, shouted, "A la guillotine!" Unmoved by their cries, she looked calmly without gesture or reply. One of the officers, to relieve her from the insults to which she was exposed, asked her if she wished to have the windows of the carriage closed.
"No!" she replied, "I do not fear the looks of honest men, and I brave those of my enemies."
"You have very great resolution," was the reply, "thus calmly to await justice."
"Justice!" she exclaimed; "were justice done I should not be here. But I shall go to the scaffold as fearlessly as I now proceed to the prison."
At ten o'clock that evening, her cell being prepared, she entered it for the first time. It was a cold, bare room, with walls blackened by the dust and damp of ages. There was a small fireplace in the room, and a narrow window, with a double iron grating, which admitted but a dim twilight even at noonday. In one corner there was a pallet of straw. The chill night air crept in at the unglazed window, and the dismal tocsin proclaimed that Paris was still the scene of tumult and of violence. Madame Roland threw herself upon her humble bed, and was so overpowered by fatigue and exhaustion that she woke not from her dreamless slumber until twelve o'clock of the next day.
Eudora, who had been left by her mother in the care of weeping domestics, was taken by a friend and watched over and protected with maternal care. Though Madame Roland never saw her idolised child again, her heart was comforted in the prison by the assurance that she had found a home with those who, for her mother's sake, would love and cherish her.
When Madame Roland awoke from her long sleep, instead of yielding to despair and surrendering herself to useless repinings, she immediately began to arrange her cell as comfortably as possible, and to look round for such sources of comfort and enjoyment as might yet be obtained. She obtained the favour of a small table, and then of a neat white spread to cover it. This she placed near the window to serve for her writing-desk. To keep this table, which she prized so highly, unsoiled, she smilingly told her keeper that she should make a dining-table of her stove. A rusty dining-table indeed it was. Two hairpins, which she drew from her own clustering ringlets, she drove into a shelf for pegs to hang her clothes upon. These arrangements she made as cheerfully as when superintending the disposition of the gorgeous furniture in the palace over which she had presided. Having thus provided her study, her next care was to obtain a few books. She happened to have Thom-son's "Seasons," a favourite volume of hers, in her pocket. Through the jailer's wife she succeeded in obtaining "Plutarch's Lives" and Sheridan's "Dictionary."
The prison regulations were very severe. The Government allowed twenty pence per day for the support of each prisoner. Ten pence was to be paid to the jailer for the furniture he put into the cell; tenpence only remained for food. The prisoners were, however, allowed to purchase such food as they pleased from their Own purse. Madame Roland, with that stoicism which enabled her to triumph over all ordinary ills, resolved to conform to the prison allowance. She took bread and water alone for breakfast. The dinner was coarse meat and vegetables. The money she saved by this great frugality she distributed among the poorer prisoners. The only indulgence she allowed herself was in the purchase of books and flowers. In reading and with her pen she beguiled the weary days of her imprisonment. And though at times her spirit was overwhelmed with anguish at her desolate home and blighted hopes, she still found solace in the warm affections which sprang up around her, even in the uncongenial atmosphere of a prison.
One day some commissioners called at her cell, hoping to extort from her the secret of her husband's retreat. She looked them calmly in the face and said:
"Gentlemen, I know perfectly well where my husband is. I scorn to tell you a lie. I know, also, my own strength. And I assure you that there is no earthly power which can induce me to betray him."
The commissioners withdrew, admiring her heroism, and convinced that she was still able to wield an influence which might yet bring the guillotine upon their own necks. Her doom was sealed. Her heroism was a crime. She was too illustrious to live.
Madame Roland remained some time in the Abbayé prison. On the twenty-fourth day of her imprisonment, to her inexpressible astonishment, an officer entered her cell, and informed her that she was liberated, as no charge could be found against her. Hardly crediting her senses—fearing that she should wake up and find her freedom but a dream — she took a coach and hastened to her own door. Her eyes were full of tears of joy and her heart almost bursting with delight, in the anticipation of again pressing her idolised child to her bosom. Her hand was upon the door latch - she had not yet passed the threshold - when two men, who had watched at the door of her dwelling, again seized her in the name of the law. In spite of her tears and supplications, they conveyed her to the prison of St. Pelagié. This loathsome receptacle of crime was filled with the abandoned who had been swept from the streets of Paris. It was, apparently, a studied humiliation, to compel their victim to associate with beings from whom her soul shrank with loathing.
Many hours of every day she beguiled in this prison in writing the memoirs of her own life. It was an eloquent and a touching narrative, written with the expectation that each sentence might be interrupted by the entrance of the executioners to conduct her to trial and to the guillotine. In this unveiling of the heart to the world, one sees a noble nature animated to benevolence by native generosity. The consciousness of spiritual elevation constituted her only solace. The anticipation of a lofty reputation after death was her only heaven. No one can read the thoughts she penned but with the deepest emotion.
The Girondists who had been in prison were led from their dungeons in the Conciergerie to their execution on October 31, 1793. Upon that very day Madame Roland was conveyed from the prison of St. Pélagié to the same gloomy cells vacated by the death of her friends. She was cast into a bare and miserable dungeon, in that receptacle of woe, where there was not even a bed. Another prisoner, moved with compassion, drew his own pallet into her cell, that she might not be compelled to throw herself for repose upon the cold, wet stones. The chill air of winter had now come, and yet no covering was allowed her. Through the long night she shivered with the cold.
The day after Madame Roland was placed in the Conciergerie, she was visited by one of the officers of the revolutionary party, and closely questioned concerning the friendship she had entertained for the Girondists. She frankly avowed the affection with which she cherished their memory, but she declared that she and they were the cordial friends of republican liberty; that they wished to preserve, not to destroy, the Constitution. The examination lasted for three hours, and consisted in an incessant torrent of criminations, to which she was hardly permitted to offer one word in reply. This examination taught her the nature of the accusations which would be brought against her. She sat down in her cell that very night, and, with a rapid pen, sketched that defence which has been pronounced one of the most eloquent and touching monuments of the Revolution. It so beautifully illustrates the heroism of her character and the beauty and energy of her mind that it will ever be read with the liveliest interest.
She remained in the Conciergerie but one week, and during that time so endeared herself to all as to become the prominent object of attention and love. Her case is one of the most extraordinary the history of the world has presented, in which the very highest degree of hero-ism is combined with the most resistless loveliness. With an energy of will, an inflexibility of purpose, a firmness of endurance which no mortal man has ever exceeded, she combined gentleness and tenderness and affection.
The day before her trial, her advocate, Chauveau de la Garde, visited her to consult respecting her defence. She, well aware that no one could speak a word in her favour but at the peril of his own life, and also fully conscious that her doom was already sealed, drew a ring from her finger, and said to him:
"Tomorrow I shall be no more. I know the fate which awaits me. Your kind assistance cannot avail aught for me, and would but endanger you. I pray you, therefore, not to come to the tribunal, but to accept of this last testimony of my regard."
The next day she was led to her trial. She attired herself in a white robe, as a symbol of her innocence, and her long dark hair fell in thick curls on her neck and shoulders. She emerged from her dungeon a vision of unusual loveliness. The prisoners who were walking in the corridors gathered around her, and with smiles and words of encouragement she infused energy into their hearts. Calm and invincible she met her judges. When-ever she attempted to utter a word in her defence, she was browbeaten by the judges, and silenced' by the clamours of the mob which filled the tribunal. At last the president demanded of her that she should reveal her husband's asylum. She proudly replied:
"I do not know of any law by which I can be obliged to violate the strongest feelings of nature."
This was sufficient, and she was immediately condemned. Her sentence was thus expressed:
The public accuser has drawn up the present indictment against Jane Mary Phlippon, the wife of Roland, late Minister of the Interior, for having wickedly and designedly aided and assisted in the conspiracy which existed against the unity and indivisibility of the Republic, against the liberty and safety of the French people, by assembling, at her house, in secret council, the principal chiefs of that conspiracy, and by keeping up a correspondence tending to facilitate their treasonable designs. The tribunal, having heard the public accuser deliver his reasons concerning the application of the law, condemns Jane Mary Phlippon, wife of Roland, to the punishment of death.
She listened calmly to her sentence, and then, rising, bowed with dignity to her judges and, smiling, said:
"I thank you, gentlemen, for thinking me worthy of sharing the fate of the great men whom you have assassinated. I shall endeavour to imitate their firmness on the scaffold."
With the buoyant step of a child, and with a rapidity which almost betokened joy, she passed beneath the narrow portal, and descended to her cell, from which she was to be led, with the morning light, to death. The prisoners had assembled to greet her on her return, and anxiously gathered round her. She looked upon them with a smile of perfect tranquillity, and, drawing her hand across her neck, made a sign expressive of her doom.
The morning of the 8th of November, 1793, dawned gloomily upon Paris. It was one of the darkest days of that reign of terror which, for so long a period, enveloped France in its sombre shades. The ponderous gates of the courtyard of the Conciergerie opened that morning to a long procession of carts loaded with victims for the guillotine. Madame Roland had contemplated her fate too long, and had disciplined her spirit too severely, to fail of fortitude in this last hour of trial. She came from her cell scrupulously attired. A serene smile was upon her cheeks, and the glow of joyous animation lighted up her features as she waved an adieu to the weeping prisoners who gathered round her. The last cart was assigned to Madame Roland. She entered it with a step as light and elastic as if it were a carriage for a morning's drive. By her side stood an infirm old man, M. La Marche. He was pale and trembling, and his fainting heart, in view of the approaching terror, almost ceased to beat. She sustained him by her arm and addressed to him words of consolation and encouragement, in cheerful accents and with a benignant smile. She stood firmly in the cart, looking with a serene eye upon the crowds which lined the streets, and listening to the clamour which filled the air. A crowd surrounded the cart shouting:
"To the guillotine! to the guillotine!"
She looked kindly upon them, and bending over the railing of the cart, said to them in tones as placid as if she were addressing her own child:
"My friends, I am going to the guillotine. In a few moments I shall be there. They who send me thither will ere long follow me. I go innocent. They will come stained with blood. You who now applaud our execution will then applaud theirs with equal zeal."
The long procession arrived at the guillotine, and the bloody work began. The victims were dragged from the carts, and the axe rose and fell with unceasing rapidity. Head after head fell into the basket. The executioners approached the cart where Madame Roland stood by the side of her fainting companion, With an animated countenance and a cheerful smile, she was endeavouring to infuse fortitude into his soul. The executioner grasped her by the arm.
"Stay," said she, slightly resisting his grasp; "I have one favour to ask, and that is not for myself. I beseech you grant it me." Then turning to the old man she said: "Do you precede me to the scaffold. To see my blood flow would make you suffer the bitterness of death twice over. I must spare you the pain of witnessing my execution."
The stern officer gave a surly refusal, replying: "My orders are to take you first."
With that winning smile and that fascinating grace which were almost resistless, she rejoined: " You cannot, surely, refuse a woman her last request."
The hard-hearted executor of the law was brought within the influence of her enchantment. He paused, looked at her for a moment in bewilderment, and yielded. The poor old man, more dead than alive, was conducted upon the scaffold and placed beneath the fatal axe. Madame Roland, without the slightest change of colour, or the apparent tremor of a nerve, saw the ponderous instrument, with its glittering edge, glide upon its deadly mission, and the decapitated trunk of her friend was thrown aside to give place for her. With a placid countenance and a buoyant step she ascended the steps. She stood for a moment upon the platform, looked calmly around upon the vast concourse, and then bowing before a clay statue of Liberty near by exclaimed: "O Liberty! what crimes are committed in thy name." She surrendered herself to the executioner, and was bound to the plank. The plank fell to its horizontal position, bringing her head under the fatal axe. The glittering steel glided through the groove, and the head of Madame Roland was severed from her body.
The grief of M. Roland, when apprised of the event, was unbounded. For a time he entirely lost his senses. Life to him was no longer endurable. Privately he left by night, the kind friends who had concealed him for six months, and wandered to such a distance from his asylum as to secure his protectors from any danger on his account. Through the long hours of the winter's night he continued his dreary walk, till the first gray of the morning appeared. Drawing a long stiletto from the inside of his walking-stick, he placed the head of in against the trunk of a tree, and threw himself upon the sharp weapon. The point pierced his heart and he fell lifeless upon the frozen ground. Some peasants passing by discovered his body. A piece of paper was pinned to the breast of his coat, upon which there were written these words:
Whoever thou art that findest these remains, respect them as those of a virtuous man. After hearing of my wife's death, I would not stay another day in a world so stained with crime.
The daughter of Madame Roland succeeded in escaping the fury of the tyrants of the Revolution. She lived surrounded by kind protectors, and in subsequent years was married to M. Champeneaux, the son of one of her mother's intimate friends.