The Escape From Imprisonment
( Originally Published 1921 )
WE cannot do better than give in Dr. Roget's own words particulars of the change that came over the situation and the succeeding events.
" During the winter of 1802-3, which we spent at Geneva, we had frequently indulged our fancy in arranging the plan of our summer occupations, in projecting various parties of pleasure on the lake and neighbouring mountains, and in chalking out our route through Switzerland in the tour we intended to make in that enchanting country. But these brilliant prospects received a sudden check from the news of the King's warlike message to the House.'
It is curious that the Genevese did not at first regard this declaration in as serious a light as it deserved, though it required no extraordinary foresight in Englishmen to perceive that the tone assumed by both countries must lead to a speedy rupture. I found in all the companies I went into that the general opinion was that matters would be accommodated, and if I ever ventured to express opposite sentiments, they were treated with the ridicule attached to him who views evil in everything and delights in contemplating the dark side of every picture. During the whole period of subsequent negotiation they seemed very reluctant to admit the continually increasing probability of an event which from the beginning might easily have been anticipated.
Many circumstances contributed to render our situation during this interval extremely perplexing. The letters I received from Manchester expressed it as the general opinion in England that the differences between the two countries would be ultimately adjusted, and Mr. Philips wished us to remain at Geneva till the autumn if it appeared that we might do so with safety. He mentioned the Duke of Bedford's late arrival at Paris as naturally leading to the supposition that he would not have left England without a certainty of being comfortable in France. My young friends were warmly attached to Geneva, and very anxious to spend the summer there if possible. All my friends were unanimous in their opinion that no possible inconvenience, far less danger, could be incurred by delaying our return to England, and that even in the event of a war we should be allowed to stay or go where we pleased. They adduced instances of several Englishmen who had resided at Geneva during the last war. Whatever might happen, the Government could not do otherwise than give us timely intimation if they wished us to depart, and allow us the necessary time for leaving the territory. In our situation, indeed, an hour's notice was all that we had need of, as we were within six miles of the frontier. Had I been influenced by these considerations alone, I should certainly have remained in perfect tranquillity where I was, and left it to future events to decide upon the measures to be adopted. But I felt all the while a reluctance to remain in an enemy's country. To accept protection from a foe, to eat of his bread, to be sheltered under his roof, was repugnant to every feeling of delicacy. The idea that you are treading upon hostile ground, that you are surrounded with persons who are breathing hatred towards your country and plotting its destruction, is particularly grating to every sentiment of patriotism. To remain by choice in such a situation was voluntarily resigning a title of which we ought to be proud, and to disclaim all the ties which bind us to our country. The only circumstance that could make it endurable was that we were surrounded by friends warmly attached to our interests and devoted to our cause, to whom we could open our minds without reserve, and from whom we could never expect to perceive any symptoms of our being in an enemy's country.
We had picked up an acquaintance with the Commandant of the town, who lived underneath us, in the ground floor of the same house. He was not backward in his protestations of friendship and assurances of our safety under his immediate protection.
Notwithstanding these favourable appearances, I did not neglect to hold ourselves in readiness to depart whenever it should become necessary. I thought it desirable, however, to remain quiet for the present ; for, as affairs were now evidently drawing very near to a crisis, there was danger, had we immediately set out for Calais, of our finding on our arrival all communication with Dover interrupted, while at Geneva we were so near the frontier that we could easily get out of the French territory. On the other hand, to undertake a tedious journey through Germany in order to return to England, while a chance remained of our being allowed to pass by the direct road, was considered as too precipitate a step. The determination of the French Government with regard to us would soon be known, and we might shape our course accordingly. The French official paper, indeed, frequently intimated that the English would be allowed to remain in France unmolested.
It was at length announced that Lord Whitworth had left Paris, but the news came qualified with the intelligence that Buonaparte had sent a courier after him with fresh concessions and pressing solicitations for his return. Thus we were amused from day to day with contradictory accounts. We now made serious preparations for our departure, and expected shortly to receive orders to leave the French territory. On Friday, the 27th May, we had been at a party given by the Commandant. I re-marked that no other English but ourselves were present, the company consisting chiefly of French officers and the authorities of the town, the Mayor and Prefect. The Commandant observed to me that he could not invite any other English on account of the departure of our Ambassador. I thought I perceived a change in his manner and particular coldness towards us. It was late when we retired, and it was then that the Philipses told me of a vague report that news had arrived from Lyons of the detention of all the English that were there. The nature of this report, as well as the source from which it came, did not entitle it to the slightest credit.
About eight o'clock the next morning Burton entered my room, followed by Moré, a person who let out horses, informing us that all the English at Sécheron had set off early that morning for Switzerland, certain intelligence having reached them of the "arrestation " of the English at Lyons. He offered us horses at any time that we should want them, and left us to consult as to what we should do. I did not hesitate to attempt an escape if it were not already too late. We had our carriage at Voirembé [or Varembé], two miles from Geneva ; thither I determined to go, and ordered horses to be sent there. I took fifteen louis in my pocket, and looked everywhere for the key of our chaise, but in vain. Having each put a couple of shirts in a bundle, and ordered François to take it to Edgeworths at Sécheron, and there to leave it, we were going to sally forth, but reflecting that it would be better, in order to prevent confusion, to apprise Mme. Peschier of our intention, we communicated to her the news in private, and scarcely waiting to hear what she could say in reply, we left the house and went to some of our friends in order to give them notice of their danger. We first called upon Pattison ; we found M. Prévost with him, who had heard of the report, but gave it no credit whatever. He told us that the Paris dispatches of that day had been received, and that they contained no orders that in any way related to us. He spoke of this in the most positive terms. We might stay, he said, in Geneva in perfect safety ; but if we meant to go, there was at any rate no circumstance that justified a precipitate flight. We then went to Davidson and Maude ; on our way thither we reflected on what M. Prévost had told us with respect to the actual arrival of the dispatches and the improbability that there was any ground for the panic which had seized the other English. The Philipses were decidedly of opinion that we were too precipitate. I then determined to go home alone, and appointing a place of rendezvous for the Philipses, to inquire into the truth of the matter and to return to tell them of the result. When I came to our house, I saw General Dupuch looking quietly out of his window ; he had heard of our alarm, and assured us that there was not the least foundation for it. He had just opened his dispatches ; they contained nothing of the kind. ` Did you suppose,' said he, ` that you would have been more in safety in Switzerland than here ? Quite the reverse ; the order, if it had come, would have extended as well to Switzerland as to Geneva.' He then assured us that if such orders had arrived he would have certainly given us notice underhand, previous to their being put into execution. These assurances, which, coming from the Commandant, we might in some measure consider as official, entirely quieted our fears, which were the subject of much laughter and merriment during breakfast. In my own mind, however, I took a fixed determination not to wait the arrival of the next courier from Paris and to expose ourselves to the possibility of another alarm.
Breakfast was scarcely over before M. Prévost came into my room, and told me that he was just come from the Prefect's office, and that there was more truth in the news than he had apprehended. Orders were, in fact, issued to arrest all English above eighteen years of age. He advised us to be off without losing a moment. We did not require this advice to be twice given us. We just shook M. and Mme. Peschier by the hand, flew out of the house, ordered horses from Moré's to be sent to Voirembé, and were hastening out of the town, when we met Mr. Ansley, who told us that Edgeworth was at Mr. Hentsch's. Thither I accordingly went, and found a large circle of ladies and one gentleman in the counting-house. They were talking with great eagerness of the subject of our present alarm. The Marchioness of Donegal asked me a few questions relative to it. All was in confusion at the counting-house ; Mr. Hentsch exhibited the picture of despair. I took bills of exchange for the money we had with him, and we again sallied forth. We passed the gates without impediment, and proceeded along a dusty road and in a scorching sun to Voirembé. We examined our carriage ; the key had been mislaid ; there was no means of opening the door. There was only one way of getting in, and that was by the windows. This we did as well as we could, as soon as the horses arrived. The loss of this key was a most unlucky circumstance, as we should have been obliged to alight from our carriage in passing Versoix in order to be searched by the custom house, and our getting out by the windows would have awakened too many suspicions. We therefore stopped at Sécheron, where there was a blacksmith, in order to have the lock picked. While this was doing, Déjean came into the yard. He knew positively that orders had been sent to Versoix by a courier to stop all those who should pass that way. Gendarmes had also been sent in all directions to guard every possible avenue to Switzerland. The most active measures had indeed been taken to prevent our escape. Early in the morning every person who let horses was summoned to appear and ordered to sign a paper promising not to let horses during that day. A proclamation to the same effect had been issued, and Edgeworth had heard it upon the Treille as he was leaving the town.
We were all damped by the intelligence of our escape being already prevented. We offered Edge-worth a place in our carriage, which he refused, and, indeed, I was extremely discouraged at the idea of proceeding, with the certain prospect before would have awakened his pride and would perhaps have called forth his resentment. I determined to shield myself under the order of the Commissary of Police, who had dispensed me from appearing before the Commandant, but enjoined me to come with the others before the Prefect. This resolution I had declared the preceding evening to M. Peschier. I observed that he appeared somewhat uneasy as to the issue of this step. I was adhering to my purpose and was silently letting the time pre-scribed elapse, when at about half-past eleven I was informed by M. Peschier that Dupuch had in reality been perfectly correct. He had had a long conversation with him in the morning. We were soon afterwards joined by Mme. Peschier, who corroborated that account. She told us that Dupuch had received, beside the orders he read to us yesterday, secret orders of a much more explicit nature which he had showed to her. These expressly enjoined him to detain all the English above eighteen, without making the least exception, or listening to any pretext whatever ; and that in case of the slightest endeavour on our part to evade the decree, or the slightest expression of disobedience, he was to send us with an escort of gendarmerie to the castle of Montmelian in Savoy, and to deliver us over to the custody of the Commandant of the fortress. That such were his instructions was but too true, for Mme. Peschier had read them herself. She had likewise been told by Dupuch that gendarmes had been stationed in every avenue of the frontier in order to seize all the English who should attempt to escape. We saw the Commandant a short time after : he con-firmed the greater part of what we had heard from Mme. Peschier, though without mentioning the consequences of disobedience. He said that the time was prolonged till Tuesday noon, because the business at the Prefecture would take up all the morning of Monday. He was particular in his assurances of the folly of escaping or of resistance to these orders. Mme. Peschier, when he had gone, informed us that he had told her that gendarmes had been stationed everywhere on the frontiers to seize all the English who should attempt to escape. After this we had nothing more to do than to resign ourselves to our fate. He let us know that an attempt to escape would oblige him to imprison us.
I took a walk in the evening beyond Sécheron, intending to communicate what I knew to Edgeworth, but did not find him at home. I enjoyed for the last time the magnificent spectacle of the glaciers, which then appeared in all their grandeur, and of the contrasting sweetness of the opposite shores of the lake, which that evening assumed a most peaceful stillness. The air was uncommonly clear and the setting sun tipped all the snowy summits of the Alps with fire, till at length Mont Blanc, standing aloof from the rest, was alone refulgent with its beams, and received alone the parting rays. The sun which was again to enlighten them would find me in captivity. In-surmountable barriers would, in that short interval, have been interposed between me and the scene I was contemplating, nor could I tell when I should be permitted again to behold them.
On Monday (May 30th) we all appeared before the Prefect. He behaved to us with great politeness, and admitted as sufficient proof of the ages of the Philipses what had been marked on their passports. He declared them perfectly free. On my mentioning that I was not in the Militia, he replied that he had no power to decide upon any question of that kind, but that if I had any representation to make he would be happy to forward it to Paris. I accordingly drew up a petition, which I delivered to him myself.
The Prefect took our passports, which were all on the same sheet, in order to take a note of the ages of the Philipses. He told me that he would send it to me to-morrow. I offered to call for it, but he told me there was no occasion to give myself the trouble.
The next day I went with Edgeworth to the Commandant to give him our parole. He then read to us his secret orders. Edgeworth inscribed his name and deposited his passport. I could not do the same, mine being at the Prefecture. I promised the Commandant to come to him as soon as I received it.
On Tuesday morning all of the English inscribed their names. My passport did not arrive. At half-past twelve the Commandant sent for me in a violent hurry and met me half-way upstairs. He was in a violent passion at me for not having given him my passport. I told him that I had not received it. He told me that it was my business to go for it. I did go for it, but could not get it till the evening."
The complete account from which the last paragraph is quoted breaks off here, but from an abridged account, evidently made afterwards, and also in Dr. Roget's handwriting, we learn that he did actually give his parole in the same day as his friend Edgeworth. In this latter account he adds :---
" We were now completely in the power of the French Government, who had thus doubly en-chained us ; guarding us not only by physical force, but enchaining us also by the invincible bonds of honour. It may be easily conceived with what reluctance we obeyed this last order. We hesitated long before we complied, and it was not till after the Commandant at length showed us his secret orders to imprison us in Montmelain that we gave the terrible promise, and we were the last of the English that did so."
Both accounts break off here, but it would appear that Dr. Roget addressed a second petition to the Commandant, in almost exactly the same words as that which he had addressed to the Prefect.
This apparently produced no result, and Dr. Roget submitted a third " reclamation," addressed this time to the French Minister of War himself in Paris.
Dr. Roget takes up the story again as follows :
It would be useless to enumerate the various reports which were hatched and industriously circulated about the measures of the Government, the number of English arrested, the causes of this order, the detention of French ships, etc. It was curious to remark the gradual change of public opinion with respect to it. At first all thought that it would not last above a few days, that it would cease when it had been ascertained who were not in the Militia, and that it would cease entirely when the ships detained were released. Negotiations were still pending. Courier after courier arrived, but no change in the measure and no answers to simple questions about it. We waited a fortnight the answer to our reclamations. No such answer arrived. It was daily expected. A little more patience was preached to us. The Government had so many to look over that it could not be expected it would answer them immediately.
I firmly thought I should obtain my liberty without difficulty merely by the statement I made of my situation. Everybody nourished this opinion. They thought that if the Government was accessible to the least sentiment of justice and humanity I should succeed in my application. How little did they know them ; and yet one would think that they had sufficient experience of their duplicity. I had always in reserve the measure of declaring myself Genevese. I thought I could do it at any time, and that it was better to try all other means before I made use of this, to which I . had naturally some reluctance. It was better to go out as English, if possible, than as French. Delay could do no harm it could not invalidate any of my rights, and I gained time to concert my measures.
In the meantime the horizon darkened and clouds gathered. We gradually lost hopes of any remission of rigour from the Government : never was extinction of hope more gradual.
Our situation became by degrees more and more unpleasant in proportion as it was known that the English Government was determined to carry on the war with vigour. We were regarded with more and more jealousy. The soldiers looked at us with sneering faces as we passed, the Jacobins eyed us with a darker scowl. We were more and more beset with spies. One called on us under pretence of charity. I discovered that my German master was a rank Jacobin.
He beset me with questions. Every time we walked out we were followed, and all that we said was listened to. If two or three assembled on the Treille, it was reported in town that the English had met together and talked in high terms against the Government. Various reports were circulated against us : that we were meditating escape ; that some had actually escaped ; that one had fought a duel with a French officer and killed him, and a multitude of others, more ridiculous the one than the other. They were mere ephemera that did not survive the day of their birth, but they continually harassed us and left their sting behind. The polissons mocked us as we passed, but orders were given strictly to forbid this. Our house was particularly marked, and reports that we talked politics continually were circulated. Edgeworth's servant discovered this at a club of Jacobins into which he got unsuspectingly.
After the first alarm of deportation to Verdun, I revolved in my mind projects of escape. I meditated various ways of disengaging myself from my parole, telling the Commandant that I gave him back my parole, risking being sent to Montmelian and bribing the escort. The Genevese project I seriously took into consideration. At length, after long meditation and many restless and anxious nights, a fortunate idea of combining the two plans presented itself : that of declaring to the Commandant that I was Genevese and as such did not any longer consider myself his prisoner and on parole. The moment I had said this I was to amuse the Commandant by pretending to go to the Prefect, etc., and this was the moment of decamping. I was to walk out of the town shabbily dressed in my greatcoat, old hat, crab stick, dark pantaloons, and red handkerchief round my neck, wearing my nightshirt without a frill and a dirty waistcoat. I should have passed out by the Porte neuve, the least suspected gate, because the most opposite to my real route. If I had met anybody I was to tell them I was going to bathe in the Arve. I was, in fact, to take that road, and meeting a man to whom I was not to speak, but whom I was to follow twenty yards behind, should have walked behind Hermance through a wood to a boat on the shore, which he would have provided for me. We should have crossed the lake at Coppet, gone on in a charabanc to Rolle, thence through Switzer-land by by-roads out into Germany. The Philipses, of course, would have been sent off some time before, probably to Constance. They should not have known where they were going till the moment they set out, but I should have made them believe they were going to M. Blanchenay at Morges.
I executed all the parts of this plan perfectly. It took some time to arrange them, to have every part in readiness. At length all was ready, and it required only to fix the time and to set fire to the train. Unfortunately, events obliged me to precipitate the execution and change it considerably. I was crossing the dinner salon to go to my room, when I perceived Mme. de Staël in the parlour with the Peschiers and Davidson. I entered. I had not sat down two minutes when she suddenly turned to me and said in English : 'I have very bad news for you. You are going all to be sent to Verdun : I have it from an unquestionable source. No reclamations will be attended to. You will set out in about a week.' She then turned to Mme. Peschier and talked French. Soon afterwards she added in English: ` All the English in Switzerland are arrested. Lord J. Campbell and Dr. Robertson have been stopped at Baden ; the former has escaped in woman's clothes, the latter is in confinement.' She then apologized to Mme. Peschier for talking English, saying that she could not resist every opportunity of improving herself in the language. She soon left the room. I accompanied her downstairs, and she spoke to me a few words more on the subject, especially enjoining secrecy. I begged permission to communicate it to Edgeworth, to which she, after some hesitation, consented.
Thunderstruck at this news, which deranged my schemes so much and left me so little time to execute them, exposed the Philipses and raised so many difficulties in my way through Switzerland, I took, however, my resolution from that instant to send away the Philipses. I went immediately to their room, and told them to prepare to leave Geneva the next day for Morges, and let them into the knowledge of Verdun, but enjoining secrecy. I walked to Edgeworth at Sécheron in a burning sun and communicated to him the news. He disbelieved it.
We, however, resolved to carry my plan of escape into execution, and Tuesday was the day fixed upon. This was Saturday.
Sunday, July 17th. Endeavoured to speak to the Commandant, but could not get a sight of him. He was at parade. Dodged him all day, but he went out to dine in the country.
18th.--Went to him early in the morning. Told him that I meant to send away the Philipses to Morges. He exclaimed against it. I told him I had received orders from their parents. He told .me he had received answers to all the reclamations, that they were all refused, and that he had orders ` de vous faire partir,' and added, ` Je me suis déjà compromis en l'éloignement.' ` If that is the case, I shall reclame myself,' said I. I am a French citizen, et j e ne me considère point comme votre prisonnier.' 'Ce ne sont pas mes affaires,' he said ` allez vite au Maire et au Préfet, vous n'avez pas un moment à perdre.' I turned back and asked him whether the orders would be executed in a week. ` Much sooner than that,' he answered ; ` perhaps the day after to-morrow.' I went to breakfast. He came up while I was breakfasting, seemed surprised to find me still there, repeated his news, and asked me very slyly whether I had received intimation of it before. I replied in the negative. He told me that I ought not to lose a moment. `Stop,' said I, ` till I have swallowed a mouthful of milk.' I then, instead of going to the Maire, went to Prévost and consulted with him. He advised me to be very cautious, and perplexed me terribly. I went to the Mairie. The Maire was absent. Picot, the substitute, told me that all was easy. They looked into the books for my name ; it was not to be found, but at length they did find it. Prévost ran in with the treaty in his hand. The point was clear : I was only to get my father's and grandfather's name, etc. I went to my uncle's for this, meditating my prospects. Prévost at my heels ran after me, advising me to go directly to the Prefect. I hesitated. I put him off. Once he penetrated me—at least, I thought so. He said that all escape would be physically impossible. To this I did not appear to pay the least attention. I was resolved to avoid going to the Prefect's as much as possible, and to push on my project of escape, which now could not hurt the English. I thought I could accomplish it as before. I returned home, settled affairs with the Philipses, and did nothing that clay. Next morning (July 19th) the Philipses set off. I went home. The next day I was to escape. I went, however, to the Mairie ; got the necessary formalities accorded with some trouble. I was now Genevese and none could touch me. I could, however, get no passport. I asked M. Picot for it, but he begged me to wait till the return of the Maire. I met the Commandant. He told me that I must go to the Prefect "
The full account from which we have been quoting breaks off here, but the doings during the remainder of the day are summarized in a briefer diary as follows
" Got a duplicate of the certificate from the Mairie. Went to the Prefect ; saw him. He assured me that I should not go to Verdun as the rest were to go, but I must wait an answer from Paris and present to him my petition. Called on Mr. Hentsch (banker) ; gave the petition to the Prefect."
We are fortunate in possessing the original document which Dr. Roget obtained from the Maire certifying his Genevese citizenship. It is worded as follows :
" Le Maire de la Ville de Genève certifie que le Citoyen Jean Roget, né le 30 mars 1751, étoit citoyen de la ci-devant République de Genève, et que son fils Pierre Marc Roget, né le 18 Janvier 1779 à Londres, a conservé sa qualité de ci-devant Genevois, en vertu de laquelle, et d'après l'article ler du traité de réunion, en ces termes, `Les Genevois absens ne seront point considerés comme émigrés. Ils pourront en tous tems revenir en France et s'y établir,' etc. Le dit Pierre Marc Roget a déclaré voulour de fixer dans sa patrie et jouir des droits attachés à la qualité de Citoyen français. Et s'est fait inscrire sur le tableau de la Commune.
(Signed) PICOT, adjt.
GERVAIS, S. en chef."
The document bears the stamp of the Mairie of the Commune of Geneva, French Republic.
The narrative is best continued by giving the following, which is apparently the draft of a letter to his pupils. It is, however, uncompleted, and may not have ever reached them.
" MY DEAREST FRIENDS,
You will, I am afraid, have been alarmed at the sudden message I sent to you to remove from Lausanne to Neuchâtel. You must surely, however, have believed I took this step for very good reasons. Personal safety, as your father has often said, must be paramount to every other consideration, and I had good reason at that time to doubt your being in safety at Lausanne? The Commandant was furious at the idea of your having got out of his reach ; he wished very much you would return to Geneva, and even made use of threatening language in case you did not. All these were reasons for removing you further off, and for placing you for the moment in a place of perfect security. I exposed myself to the effects of his resentment by doing so, but this I did not regard, so that your safety could be secured. I thought also you would prefer being at Neuchâtel to being at Lausanne, where you had no acquaintances. Besides, it is always so much gained on the road to Germany. I had no time to explain to you the few lines in which I desired you to depart. I must now tell you what has passed. I believe it was last Wednesday or Thursday morning that I wrote to you that my prospects of obtaining a passport were exceedingly bright. The Prefect had almost promised it to me, and his secretary also. On Thursday all the English appeared before the Prefect and were told that the Government had given orders that they should be sent to Verdun. I had received a summons the day before to appear before the Prefect, but of course, as I had declared myself Genevese, did not attend to it. The English were ordered to appear before the Commandant the next day (Friday) to receive further instructions relative to their transportation. I was not a little surprised the Thursday morning to receive a note from the secretary of the Prefect desiring to see me at three o'clock for some formality I was to execute. I came at the time appointed. He then told me that the Commandant had had a long conversation with the Prefect about me, that he was méchant, and required my father's certificate of baptism, etc., and proofs of my being the person I pretended to be. He required all these before seven the next morning, and I clearly saw that if I could not get them I should have been comprised in the list of those to be sent to Verdun. The Commandant would be satisfied on no other conditions. You may easily conceive the difficulties I was under to obtain papers at the time of the evening when all the offices were shut. I had literally to run about the whole town all the evening till half-past ten o'clock. By dint of recommendation, persuasion and insisting on the thing, I got one of the papers, the certificate of my father's birth. The other act (acte de vérité), attesting the identity of my person, was to have been done before a Juge de Paix, but he was ten miles in the country. I found his substitute in a remote corner of Plain-palais ; he was playing at bowls at his circle (club). I had great difficulty in getting him to listen to me. At length, by tickling the palm of his hand, he promised to be ready for me by six the next morning, and in the meanwhile I was to collect eight witnesses, and to be sure of finding them all at home the next morning, and to bring him their Christian names, etc. This took me till half-past ten. Luckily, it was the night of the parsons' society. I went there with M. Peschier, and got four at one visit, otherwise I should have found it more difficult. At six I was running again to the Notary ; he was in bed. I called him, however, and he slowly arose and fell to work, and in half an hour the deed was executed attesting that I was really the son of the person I called my father. I had now to run about for signatures. I found many of the witnesses in bed. Some got up for me, others signed in bed, and at length my number was completed. Another difficulty now occurred : the Bureau d'enregistrement was shut, and nothing could be done without it. I waited on the secretary of the Prefect. He seemed to think it absolutely necessary to get the paper immediately. With great difficulty I got the Notary to let him see it before it was registered ; then, and not till then, was I safe from being sent to Verdun. I then wrote you a hasty letter. The fatigue and anxiety I had undergone were so great that I was very ill all day. No passport would be granted to me. I must wait the answer from Paris. By taking care of myself, I have now recovered from my fatigue, but some anxiety yet remains. I have, however, received since a letter from Delessert,' which gives me great hopes of success from a letter which my uncle 2 has written directly to Talleyrand, and which he will lay before the Chief Consul on his arrival at Bruxelles. An answer to this I may receive very shortly. The issue of this message to Paris must at any rate be favourable. The Commandant is mollified very evidently by the letter of Delessert, which I showed him."
The letter, which is unfinished, breaks off here, but we are able to continue the narrative by quoting from Dr. Roget's diary.
" Sat., 23rd (July).—Went to Séeheron at seven and concocted plan of escape. Packed up things. Edgeworth drank tea.
Sun., 24th.—The English set out for Verdun : Percy, Edgeworth, Dendy, Maude and Packington. Egan delayed it for three days with their servants, and a gendarme called on M. Dayrolles.
Mon., 25th.-Went to Sécheron. Dined with M. Dayrolles ; revolved plans. At eight o'clock in the evening took the resolution of asking for a Paris passport, called on M. Maurice (the Maire), told him I wanted to go to Paris, and asked him if he would give me a passport. He said he would if I would call the next morning. I prepared all for my departure. Called on Mme. de Staël.
Tue:, 26th.—Went about my passport. All went smoothly. Wrote to Hentsch for money. Received an invitation from Mme. de Staël, which of course I declined. At twelve, got my passport ; at one, dined."
The actual passport is still preserved, and is reproduced in Fig. 5.
The diary continues :
" Had delay on account of some money I wished to get past Versoix. Set out at 4 p.m. from the house and left Geneva ; passed out of the gates. Called on Mme. Chauvet, took my sticks and went to Sécheron ; got into the cabriolet at five and drove off. Passed Versoix with difficulty ; stopped half an hour at Nion, got to Morges at twelve at night ; supped.
27th.--At four in the morning was off for Orbe, where I breakfasted; dined at Joudun ; slept at St. Aubin, and got to Neuchâtel at seven. After many inquiries found the Philipses. The main spring of the carriage was broke !"
Before continuing the narrative of the escape and return to England of the reunited party, it is of interest to quote the following notes which we have in Dr. Roget's handwriting, in which he commits his thoughts to paper, relieves his feelings, and reveals the depth of his righteous indignation at the way the Commandant had treated him.
" The departure of the English at Sécheron was the first alarm I received. I immediately acted as if there was real cause for alarm, though every circumstance tended to make it appear ridiculous. The measure was so unprecedented and so atrocious as to appear destitute of all foundation. Every circumstance tended to delude us as to the real nature and extent of the order. Ambiguous wording, public opinion and the language of the Commandant made us regard it as not applying to us and as lasting but a very short time. When we fled we were assured we should be stopped. The Commandant threatened us with confinement at Montmelian upon the least offer of resistance. We did not think it worth while risking a second attempt at escape, and particularly as all said it would compromise the other English. Maude and Mr. Ansley did attempt it, and had got as far as Séeheron, but Lord Beverly dissuaded them from proceeding. I might have passed for under eighteen, for Genevese, for anything, and most probably would not have been classed with the English. But unfortunately my passport was on the same piece of paper with that of the Philipses, whose ages being marked, it procured them exemption. My age and country were also marked upon mine. In order to prove the first I was obliged to show the last, which was on the other side of the leaf. Otherwise I might have torn it off and burnt or hid it.
The idea of declaring myself Genevese did some-times occur, but I thought it better to wait. I had a great reluctance to do so, as it was renouncing my English character. I wished to share the same fate with the Philipses, and never to run a chance of being separated from them. I knew not for the moment the consequences of such a step : perhaps I should be riveted still faster than before. I had heard so much of being included in the conscription that I hesitated before I would at once expose myself without possibility of retreat to the unknown dangers. The evil I then bore was present and known-at least, I imagined I knew it. Much indeed was I mistaken, for how can any honest mind conceive the con-catenation of perfidy and malice which, spread unseen before, behind and on every side, and drawn by gentle degrees closer and closer, lays hold first of one limb and then of another ; ties the knot unperceived, while the generous soul is reposing in the peaceful slumbers of confidence ; then drags the net closer and closer lulls suspicion, when just awakening, by a momentary relaxation ; entangles and perplexes all the movements ; then seizes with one grasp his prey, now roused to indignation and struggling in vain to wrench asunder his fetters. This is now the moment for insult. He drags the victim, bound hand and foot, before him, and with the greatest civility spits him in the face. The imperious tone of vanity when invested with authority, the sharp accents of waspish irritability, or the assumed politeness of an exulting foe : these are what he must expect to bear alternately, according to the humour of the moment. Of all these the last is the most cutting and bitter. One can bear open hatred ; vanity excited our contempt ; a gust of passion leaves no impression on the mind ; but the sneering compliments of a pretended friend, offering us consolation and holding out to us his protection, when we know the malice that rankles in his heart, that he considers us as his dupe, gulled by his smiles, decoyed by his fair words, and that when offering us friendship he is all the while plotting our destruction.
I have at length escaped from their clutches ! The Tygers (sic) of Africa are less to be dreaded, are less ferocious than these. Monsters vomited up from the deep are less terrible. Demons commissioned from Hell to execute some infernal purpose and overrunning the earth, spreading wheresoever they go the calamities of plague, pestilence and famine, are milder and more to be trusted than they. The land is blasted which they tread upon. The air which blows from their accursed country is loaded with infection. All is blighted and corrupted by their envenomed touch. Dissimulation and corruption are in the van, perfidy and treachery pave the way and ruin and horror are in the rear. Their track is marked by devastation and destruction. Death pursues their footsteps and swallows up what they leave."
From Neuchâtel all three succeeded in getting away into Germany, in circumstances which can be detailed partly by reproducing a draft of a Ietter written by Dr. Roget at Stuttgart, whither they arrived on August 3rd, and partly by quoting from the diary already referred to. The letter commences :—
" Thank Heaven, we are now all three in perfect safety. We have saved ourselves from the clutches of a set of tygers in human shapes. I cannot find words sufficiently expressive of the horror and indignation I feel at the perfidious conduct of the Government from whose tyranny we have escaped. It is impossible for me to give a connected description of the series, of vexations, of difficulties and of dangers with which I have had to struggle. Volumes could not paint the anxieties, the sufferings, which I have gone through for the last two months. . .
The cares and deep anxieties we have suffered, and which you no doubt have shared, are happily at an end. Their remembrance will now only tend to heighten the pleasure we feel at our deliverance from them. I shall endeavour to trace an outline of what has passed.
I had long been meditating and maturing a project of escape without breaking my parole. Events hastened the execution of it before it was properly arranged. I was obliged to change my plans two or three times. I had prepared a complete disguise for escaping through Switzer-land after my pupils should have been in safety. The villainy of the Commandant at Geneva soon showed itself, and justified my darkest suspicions. Notwithstanding that my pupils were under age and had obtained regular passports, he had sent express orders to stop them at the frontiers. They passed almost by a miracle, having by accident two little slips of card with them with the signature of the Commandant upon them. I had sent them first to Lausanne, but the Commandant, enraged at their escape, muttered threats against me if I did not order them back to Geneva. Of course, I sent them further on, to Neuchâtel, where for a time they would be completely out of his reach. I had reclaimed my rights as a Genevese citizen of Geneva. Though incontestable, he would not admit them, and ordered me to remain in the town.
I must pass over the particulars of my escape from the town. I flew like lightning to Neuchâtel to rejoin my pupils, determined to undergo the last extremity sooner than part with them again. I arrived in safety. Greater difficulties yet awaited us. The town was full of English who had flocked from Switzerland to avoid arrest by the French troops, of which the Swiss Government had privately given them notice. Two or three were attempting an escape in disguises as peasants ; the rest were waiting without knowing what to do. Everybody gave different opinions as to what was best to be done."
According to the diary, Dr. Roget called upon a banker named Durouvay and endeavoured to get a further passport from the Secretary of State, but was unsuccessful. " The carriage being got ready," he continues, " determined to set off the next morning, spite of all remonstrances from Durouvay, McCulloch, Sir F. Drake and David-son." The letter continues : ---
" By the help of a servant I took from Geneva, who understood perfectly the by-roads, we chalked out a plan of escape through Switzerland without passing through any town. We dressed ourselves as shabbily as we could, carefully avoided speaking a word of English [set out at five in the morning],' stopped at obscure villages only [dined at Arberg, slept at Buren. The innkeeper was a true Swiss and a great friend of the English]. The second day we were obliged to pass before the gates of Soleure. This we contrived to do very early in the morning, and stole by unmolested.
[Dined at' Herzog-buchzee, slept at Rotherist. Sat., 31st.—Proceeded to Wildeck, a wretched inn, where we dined, sending Jacob and Blondel the coachman to make inquiries, and to prepare the boat to ferry us over. Slept there, in the midst of a noisy peasants' harvest ball.] The fourth was the most critical part of our route. Our object was to pass Brugg unobserved, a small town which had a French garrison. It was necessary to pass either through this town or through Baden, where Lord J. Campbell, quite a young man, and Dr. Robertson, his preceptor, had been arrested. The former effected his escape in woman's clothes, the latter got off afterwards in another way. We preferred Brugg as being a smaller place.
We rose at three, [went a league in the coach, went on foot with the innkeeper's son], crossed the river in a small boat prepared for us overnight, walked with a guide and our faithful servant six or eight miles. There was no other way but to pass through a corner of the town. We did so without being observed by a sentinel, whose back was turned towards us. I do not know whether he would have said anything to us, but the carriage, which followed us half an hour afterwards, was stopped by him. The coachman had the address to prevail upon him to let him pass with the bribe of a bottle of wine. It over-took us at a little distance, [again passed the Aar in a boat, got to Zurich], and we hastened to cross the Rhine [in a ferry] before the Commandant of Brugg could have time to send after us.
It is impossible to describe the rapture we felt in treading on friendly ground. It was like awaking from a horrid dream, or recovering from the night-mare. We could scarcely yet believe our good fortune. It was too great to be felt all at once. We fancied ourselves yet insecure. We hastened away from that inhospitable land where we had met with such increasing persecution.
[Bathed in the Rhine, breakfasted and took post-horses to Sedligen. Slept a stage beyond it. 2nd Aug.—Passed through Rothweil, slept at Flechingen ; curious innkeeper, pretended not to speak French.]
We are now arrived at Stuttgart, where we shall stay for a few days to refit and to repose ourselves from all our fatigues. I have been greatly exhausted by all that I have had to go through. The heat still continues so excessive that travelling is exceedingly unpleasant and scarcely bearable in the middle of the day.
The feeling of our newly acquired liberty, pur-chased with so much toil and hazard, will, I am sure, restore my wonted strength. I repeat to myself frequently in the course of the day, ` I am free ; the ground on which I tread is friendly ; I am on my way towards England, towards all that is dear to me ; I am once more a man.' We have recommendations here to Count Jennison, who has shown us the greatest attention. We shall make the best of our way to Berlin, in our way to Old England. I suppose you would not have any objection to our staying there for a short time to see the great Review of the Prussian Army in September. Indeed, the month of Sept-ember is one of the worst for crossing the sea, and our passage requires more consideration than that of Calais to Dover. I know not at present where it would be best to embark. Indeed, events succeed with such rapidity that it is impossible to lay down any plan from which one can be certain of not being obliged to deviate perhaps Copenhagen."
Here the letter ends. It is recorded in the diary that there were two very severe thunderstorms on the day of their arrival at Stuttgart, that they saw the Palace and the theatre, and had a sight of the Elector of Wurttemberg. They were also disturbed by an alarm of fire at two o'clock in the morning. On the following day they visited the museum of medals and natural history. The party remained at Stuttgart until August 9th, on which day, to quote the words of the diary, they " dined at one, set out for Ludwigburg, walked to see the Palace,' and went on to Heilbron and arrived at twelve at night."
It is unnecessary to follow the exact words of the diary in describing the remainder of the journey through Germany.
Heilbron was duly reached the next day, and Dr. Roget's observant eyes noted the town house outside, covered with painted cloth in imitation of stone." He further remarks upon the curious oil-mills, tobacco-factory and natural selzerwater works, and records that considerable emigration to Poland was going on at the solicitation of the King of Prussia. August 11th brought our travellers to Heidelberg, where the diarist praises the fine situation of the ruined castle and mentions the cathedral as three hundred years old. The environs of Heidelberg, with the River Neckar, are justly described as very pretty. They proceeded to Mannheim along a fine road through level country, where they noticed tobacco growing.
Mannheim is described as a superb town, clean and neat, with an avenue of trees in the middle of the street and numerous fountains. Dr. Roget's interest in scientific matters was arrested by the observatory, which he refers to as containing a " Mural Quadrant by Bird and a Meridional Telescope by Ramsden, built thirty years before " (evidently the Germans at that time had to rely on British manufacturers for the best classes of optical apparatus). It is also mentioned that there had been a fine library and picture gallery, but that the Prince Palatine had taken them away. The cathedral is described as highly ornamented, with beautiful marble altar with agate and green jasper, and as showing a hole made by a cannon-ball. The castle had been set on fire by the Austrian bombardment by Clairfait, who took it twice. At the time of their visit, the King of Sweden was expected and the theatre was prepared for him. The party dined at the " Admiral Klingel," and remarked at the "great cheapness of everything"; on the other hand, the inn where they slept is described as very exorbitant. The fountains, cascades, etc., of the gardens of the Schwetzingen Castle were visited, and they met their friend Davidson, one of the English who had succeeded in escaping from Geneva.
On August 12th they set off at six in the morning and travelled over bad sandy roads to Darmstadt and on to Frankfort, arriving at eight in the evening at the Hôtel d'Angleterre.
From Frankfort, Dr. Roget wrote to his uncle - as follows :
" I suppose you have already received the account I sent you from Stuttgart of our escape through Switzerland and our safe arrival in Germany. We pursued our way to Berlin as far as this place, but have been deterred from advancing further for the present by a number of accounts I have received of the difficulty of getting to England, even by the way of Berlin. I have accordingly been advised to stop at Frankfort till the truth of these reports can be ascertained and further information obtained, and in no place are we so likely to come at the truth as here. I have written to obtain information as to the safest route we ought to take. Excepting one very old letter from my mother, it is at least three months since I have had any news from my friends. Frankfort is a very fine town, and our residence here is made agreeable by acquaintance with an English family who are in the same situation as ourselves."
The party was unfortunately delayed in Frank-fort for nearly two months by the illness of one of the Philipses, but happily he recovered sufficiently for a fresh start to be made on October 6th, when it was deemed advisable for the fugitives to remove further eastward, as the French were advancing in that direction.
In a further letter from Frankfort, Dr. Roget refers to his pupil's illness, and remarks :
" As soon as he is sufficiently restored to be able to bear the motion of a carriage I think it will be advisable to set off . . and I shall endeavour to reach with all possible expedition the port at which we are to embark, which I suppose will be that of Husum, in Denmark. I believe it will be as well to take Berlin in our way, as it is very little out of the road which the occupation of Hanover by the French troops will oblige us to take. On the most favourable supposition it will be a fortnight yet before we shall be able to leave Frankfort. We may then perhaps reach the seaport before November. . . I am afraid it would go hard with me if the packet in which we went over were taken, but I hope there is little danger of that."
The start from Frankfort was finally made at three o'clock on October 6th, and Hanau was reached at six. On setting out the next day at eight, the footboard of their carriage broke and they were delayed till nine ; dining at Gelnhausen, they slept at Schlichtern. The entry for October 8th simply reads " Breakfasted at Fulda, slept at Vach." The following day they arrived at Eisenach, but a great fall of snow prevented their going on. Continuing the next day, however, they passed through Gotha and Erfurt, and slept at Weimar, where pouring rain was reported. They went on over " dreadful roads " to Nauembourg, and proceeding through Weissenfels, arrived at Leipzig on the afternoon of October 12th. Resting here a day or two, they continued their journey on October 15th via Tuben to Witten-berg and Beelitz, arriving at Potsdam on the morning of October 17th. That afternoon they " saw the parade " and " went to Sans Souci," and the following morning " went to the palace of marble, saw the King 2 and Queen," and " arrived at Berlin at three."
It was in Berlin that Dr. Roget received a reply from Romilly to his own letter from Stuttgart. In this Romilly writes :
" If you return soon, you will take care, I make no doubt, to come in a neutral vessel, or in some way that you will not run any risk. . . `. We are under no apprehension now of the consequences of the invasion with which we are threatened. The number of volunteers who have enrolled themselves in every part of the country is very great; so great that the Ministers have thought it not advisable to accept all who have offered, and have resolved to limit their numbers to six times the Militia, and at that rate the volunteers will amount to 240,000 men besides the Militia, the supplementary Militia, the Army of Reserve and the Regulars. The limiting the number of the volunteers has given great dissatisfaction. It is supposed to have proceeded from an apprehension in the Ministry that by a very general arming, arms may be put into the hands of many improper persons. Such apprehensions seem to be very idle in this country, whatever may be the case in Ireland. The accounts that have been published of the conduct of the French in Hanover, whether true or false, have done wonders, and it seems as if every man considered himself as arming, not merely in the defence of his country, but for the protection of the lives of his wife and his children."
We will not dwell on the doings of the party in Berlin, where they appear to have called on several persons whom they knew or to whom they had introductions, and visited, among other places, the " Castle and Palace, Opera house and Concert room and the Porcelain manufactory," and where, apparently, Dr. Roget was at last able to get a passport which was correct for the route he was adopting.
Setting out from Berlin on October 25th, they dined at Fehrbellin at four o'clock, and arrived at Kyritz at two in the morning, finding nothing to eat. The next night's rest was at Perleberg, whence they departed at six in the morning and had another long day on the road, as they did not arrive at Schwerin till two in the morning again. At eleven o'clock the next night they arrived at Lubeck and had difficulty in finding beds. Staying two nights, it was here that they finally sold the carriage, which they had originally bought in Paris and had travelled so many miles in, and agreed with a voiturier to take them on. They also " exchanged money for the Danish species."
The continuation of the journey into and across what was then Danish territory is described as follows in the diary : " Set out at 10i, dined at Eutin at about 3 1/2-5 1/2, travelled on to Kiel, where we arrived at three in the morning, supped or breakfasted, proceeded to Eckersdorf, at about nine."
Referring to this part of the journey, Mr. John L. Roget (Dr. Roget's son), in some notes founded on his father's verbal reminiscences, writes : "They at last arrived in sight of the sea, with a feeling akin to that of Xenophon and his soldiers, at the port of Husum in Denmark on the 31st October."
The next morning, November 1st, they " inquired about the packet—the captain not on shore—none but a dirty fishing-boat without beds and with sixty soldiers " was available.
Continuing from Mr. Roget's notes : " Here they were detained for no less than three weeks by contrary winds which prevented the mail-boat from coming to take them home, and when it did, they had to wait for the changing of the wind back again before they could set sail. At length (on November 16th) they embarked for England in the packet Diana (Captain Stewart)." The method of embarkation is thus described in the diary : "Embarked on board a pilot skiff at 4 1/2; got to the packet at 6." "But the dangers of the sea," continues Mr. Roget, " had yet to come." For six days they were tossed on the North Sea. When at length the little vessel was making good way for the port of Harwich, a suspicious-looking sail made its appearance in the offing. Growing larger, it took the shape of a frigate, which showed no colours but brought the Diana to by firing a gun. The passengers on board the packet watched with no small anxiety the lowering of a boat for the purpose of boarding her, and it may be believed that to none of our three fugitives was a sound more welcome than the voice of the lieutenant in command of the boarding-party when he approached near enough for them to hear him shouting to his crew with a round and unmistakably British oath. The frigate was H.M.S. Unicorn, Captain Hardiman. Friendly greetings followed, and an invitation to dinner, which was virtuously declined by Captain Stewart on the ground that he had five mails on board. These, together with our three travellers, were safely delivered at Harwich on the following day, the 22nd of November. They were lodged at an inn whose landlord bore the singularly appropriate name of Mr. John Bull. Thence Dr. Roget made all speed to deliver up his charges safe and sound to their parents in Manchester.
As is well known, the other Englishmen from Geneva, including Dr. Roget's friend Lovell Edgeworth, who were actually sent to Verdun, remained interned there for eleven years.