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had seen it. He said he could not read; that he had but just found it, and that no one else had seen it. He was, however confined until the governor was certain that he could not read and that no other had seen the plate. He then dismissed him, saying, “ It is lucky for you that you cannot read.""
The Abbé Papon relates, “that a young lad, a barber, having seen one day something white floating on the water, took it up: it was a fine shirt, written almost all over. He carried it to M. de St. Mars, who having looked at some parts of the writing, asked the lad, with an appearance of anxiety, if he had not had the curiosity to read it. He assured him repeatedly that he had not ; but two days afterwards the boy was found dead in his bed.”
M. de la Borde informs us, that M. Linguet, in the course of his inquiries found that when the Iron Mask went to mass, he had the most express orders not to speak or show himself; that the invalids were commanded to fire on him if he disobeyed; that their arms were loaded with balls ; and that he therefore took great care to conceal himself, and to be silent.
Among the various conjectures respecting the Iron Mask, one writer supposes him to have been
the Duke of Beauford, second son of Cæsar, Duke of Vendome; but he was killed by the Turks in 1669. Another suspects him to have been the Count de Vermandois, natural son of Louis XIV. who died publicly with the army in 1683. A third says it was the Duke of Monmouth, of whose death, however, English history gives a very satisfactory account. it was a minister of the Duke of Mantua; but the respect paid to the prisoner is sufficient to refute such an opinion.
Others have said the Iron Mask was the son of Anne of Austria, wife of Louis XIII. and that his father was the Duke of Buckingham, who was ambassador in France in 1625 ; but there is no ground whatever for the assertion. A more prevalent opin
A fourth says ion is, that he was the twin-brother of Louis XIV. born some hours after him; and that the king their father, fearing that the pretensions of a twin-brother might one day be employed to renew those civil wars with which France had so often been afflicted, cautiously concealed his birth, and sent him away to be brought up privately.
“ To-day on a throne, to-morrow in a prison." “SUCH,” observes Madame Roland, " is the fate of virtue in revolutionary times. Enlightened men, who have pointed out its rights, are, by a nation weary of oppression, first called into authority. But it is not possible that they should maintain their places. The ambitious, eager to take advantage of circumstances, mislead the people by flattery; and to acquire consequence and power, prejudice them against their real friends. Men of principle, who despise adulation, and contemn intrigue, meet not their oppressors on equal terms; their fall is therefore certain; the still small voice of sober reason, amidst the tumult of the passions, is easily overpowered."
The resignation of the minister Roland, appeased not his enemies; they thirsted for his life. The revolutionary committee sent some of their myrmidons to arrest him ; but Roland had fled. His wife, the heroic-minded Madame Roland, remained alone to brave all their fury. Let them,” she said, “satiate it upon me; I defy its power, and devote myself to death. It is incumbent on him to save himself for the sake of his country, to which he may be yet capable of rendering important services.” She was sent to the Abbaye.
The wife of the keeper made some civil observations, expressive of the regret she felt when a prisoner of her own sex arrived; "for” added she, “they have
not all your serene countenance.” Madame Roland thanked her with a smile, while the keeper locked her into a room hastily put in order for her reception. “ Well, then," said she, seating herself, and falling into a strain of reflections, “I am in prison.” The moments that followed, she declares she would not have exchanged for those which might be esteemed by others as the happiest of her life. “I recalled the past to my mind,” says she; “I calculated the events of the future; I devoted myself, if I may so say, voluntarily to my destiny, whatever it might be; I defied its rigour, and fixed myself firmly in that state of mind in which, without giving ourselves concern for what is to come, we seek only employment for the present."
On rising next morning, she busied herself in arranging her apartment.
She had in her pocket Thomson's Seasons, a work of which she was particularly fond. She made a memorandum of such other books as she should wish to procure; among these were the Lives of Plutarch, Hume's History of England, and Sheridan's Dictionary. While employed in these peaceful preparations, she heard the town in a tumult, and the drums beating to arms. She could not help smiling at the contrast. At any rate,” said she, “they shall not prevent my living to my last moment more happy, in conscious innocence, than my persecutors, with the rage that animates them. If they come, I will advance to meet them, and go to death as a man would go to repose.”
To a faithful domestic, who came to visit her, she observed, “Whenever I have been ill, I have experienced a particular kind of serenity, proceeding unquestionably from my mode of thinking, and from the law I have laid down for myself; or always submitted quietly to necessity, instead of revolting against it.
The moment I take to my bed, every duty and every solicitude seems at an end; I am bound only to remain there with resignation and with a
good grace. I find that imprisonment produces on me nearly the same effect; I am bound only to be in prison, and what great hardship is there in that? I am not such very bad company for myself.”
Madame Roland seemed to take a pleasure in making trials of her fortitude, and inuring herself to privations. She determined to make an experiment how far the mind is capable of diminishing gradually the wants of the body. She began by substituting, in place of coffee and chocolate, bread and water fo breakfast. For her dinner, she had one plain dish of meat, with a few vegetables; and for her supper, vegetables also, without a dessert. She relinquished both wine and beer. As her purpose in adopting this conduct was moral rather than economical, she appropriated the sums thus saved, for the relief of those miserable wretches who were lying upon straw; that while eating her dry bread in the morning, she might have the pleasure of reflecting, that by this deprivation, she was adding to their dinner.
A short time after, she was transferred to the prison of St. Pelagie. The wing there appropriated to female prisoners, was divided into long and very narrow corridors, on one side of which were the cells. Under the same roof, and upon the same line, separated only by a thin partition of plaster, was the respectable wife of the virtuous Roland forced to dwell, in the midst of women of the most abandoned characters, and exposed to every sort of insult and contumely. “If this,” observed the heroic sufferer, “be the reward of virtue on earth, who can be astonished at my contempt of life, or at the resolution with which I look death in the face ?"
Fortitude, she justly conceived, consisted not merely in an effort of the mind to rise above circumstances, but in maintaining that elevation by suitable conduct. She divided her days with the exactest order. In the morning she studied English, in Shaftesbury's Essay on Virtue, and the Seasons of Thomson ; with the
former she strengthened her reason, with the latter she charmed her imagination and delighted her feelings. Afterwards she employed herself with her crayons till the hour of dinner; and the evenings she devoted either to writing memoirs of
her life, or to the perusal of Tacitus and Plutarch. The whole of her conduct was a striking proof how much even the malice of fortune is impotent, when directed against those who have acquired the habit of exerting their faculties, and of exercising over themselves a voluntary control.
Madame Roland was at length, after five months' confinement, condemned to the scaffold. She beheld the approach of death with unaffected tranquillity. Although passed the prime of life, she was still a charming women; her person was tall and elegantly framed; her countenance animated and expressive, but misfortune and confinement had impressed on her aspect traces of melancholy, which tempered its vivacity. In a body moulded by grace, and fashioned by a courtly politeness, she possessed a republican soul. Something more than is generally found in the eyes of women, was painted in her's, which were large, dark, and full of softness and intelligence. Sometimes her sex recovered its ascendency, and it was easy to perceive that conjugal and maternal recollections had drawn tears from her eyes. The woman who waited upon her said to M. Riouffe, “Before you she is all courage; but in her own room she sometimes stands for three hours together, leaning against the window and weeping."
Nothing could exceed the heroic firmness which she displayed on the scaffold. She suffered her hair to be cut off, and her hands to be bound, without uttering a murmur or complaint. Before laying her head on the block, she bowed to the statue of Liberty exclaiming, in a tone of heartfelt pathos,
“O, Liberty! what crimes are committed in thy name!"