Page images


Ferme never spoke a word of truth, even when he was drunk.* But the other officer says the same thing; they approach the commandant. - You have in your house," say they to him, the hereditary prince of Modena."-Scarcely had the company taken their seats, when the sound of instruments was heard out of doors; it proceeded from some French horns which BoisFermé had brought with him. They drank the health of Hereules Rinaldo d'Estè, hereditary prince of Modena, to a flourish of the music. The person, in whose house this scene was performed, appeared at first surprised, embarrassed ; then expressed dissatisfaction at such a piece of indiscretion.

“ My lord,” say they to him, "you cannot conceal yourself from us; we know who you are.” He then leaves the table, takes the commandant aside and says to him: “I did not expect, in so distant a country, to be recognized so soon. Inform those gentlemen that I insist on being incognito; and that I am for every body the count de Tarnaud.” Nadau communicates to all present the prince's orders; every body takes leave with promises of keeping the secret, and you may suppose how well they perform their engagement. Our colonies, and particularly Martinique, were at that time

critical situation. The island was blockaded by the English and provisions were scarce; none could be procured but from the neutral islands of Curacoa and St. Eustatius. These supplies, in their own nature sufficiently precarious and burdensome, were rendered still more so by the advices of some of the principal officers, who sought in the public misery for ineans to increase their private fortunes. At the head of these was the marquis of Caylus, governor-general of the windward islands, residing at Martinique; he was a man of extravagant habits, whom the embarrassment of his affairs forced into the hands

in a very

* Bois-Fermè had a negro, named La Plume, who waited on liian at table, and whom he had taught not a word of French, except oui (yes)." Is it not true La Plume ?” his master used to say, turning round to him whenever be had told a story a little hard of digestion. “Qui” answered constantly and laconically La Plume. Is it not true, La Plume ? had become a proverbial mode of expressing coubt of a fact or a story.

of a crowd of designing people who led him into speculations, of which the profits were for them and the odium for him. It was he who was the principal subject of accusation ; his subalterns, whom he watched with jealous, severity, took part with the multitude in their animosity against him, which was more. over excited by the scarcity now beginning to be felt to an alarming degree. Discontent was at its height and waited only for an opportunity of declaring itself. It is easy to imagine what

. an effect was produced on the minds of people thus prepared, by the news of the arrival of the pretended prince.

Every body was engaged in calculating the advantages which would result to the colony from this event. No one asked : what business has a prince of Modena at Martinique? Why has he come in such a manner? What does he mean to do? or if such questions chance to be made, there are answers ready to all of them. Besides four or five persons pretend to have seen him at Paris, and whether they believe it or not, declare that this is the man. In short they all need the indulgence of hope, and their wishes are too keen to admit of doubt.

Nadau who fancies that his fortune is made, and moreover excited by individual resentment against the governor, hastens to lay before his guest the complaints of the whole colony; unveils to him the tricks of the speculators to raise the price of provisions, informs him of the monopoly they exercise in this necessary branch of trade, and paints in vivid colours the *misery which is consequent to it. The prince grows warm, gets into a passion, swears that he will put a stop to such scandalous proceedings, that he will cause to be punished those who thus abuse the king's confidence. In the meantime, if the English should attempt to land, he will place himself at the head of the inhabitants to repel them.

Nadau fails not to repeat this conversation. Enthusiasm and confidence are excited by it. The fermentatation even reaches Fort St. Pierre where the marquis of Caylus then was; and who laughed at this cabal which he expected to annihilate with a single frown. However reports were coming to him from every quarter. He gives orders to the cominandant of the

[ocr errors]

« Pell your

[ocr errors]

Cul-de-sac Marin to send the count de Tarnaud to him, or if
he is a person of rank to bring him himself. Nadau answers
that the person at his house is, beyond all doubt, the hereditary
prince of Modena; that the prince is sick and cannot go to St.
Pierre. The governor, on receiving this message, despatches
the captain of his guards accompanied by another officer, and
charges them with a letter for the count de Tarnaud, by which
he invites him to come to St. Pierre. The count or prince, which
you please, reads the letter and says to the envoys :
master that I am to all others the count de Tarnaud, but to him,
Hercules Rinaldo d'Este. If he wishes to see me let him come
half-way ; let him, in four or five days hence, go to Fort-Royal*;
I will be there."

The messengers had their doubts when they set out on their
errand : they returned persuaded. The marquis himself began
not to know what to think of the matter. “ There is no doubt
about its being the prince," said the captain of the guards;
“ G**d (this was the officer who accompanied him) was
struck with his likeness to the dutchess of Penthiévre his

sister, and especially to the dutchess his mother. Besides
Nadau is so sure of the fact that he must have proofs of it; if
he conceals them, it is in order to lay a snare for you. Take
care what you are about.” The governor, borne along by the
general conviction, and perhaps disturbed by the consciousness
of his own improper conduct, at last gives up the point. He
goes into his drawing-room where the company were expecting
the result of his message. An officer had just been laying a
wager that the pretended count de Tarnaud was not the prince
of Modena; the governor told him he had lost.*

This was the decisive blow; the incredulous were silent, the others triumphed. The governor seemed to have lost his senses; he wrote word that he should go to Fort-Royal, began his journey, then changed his mind, and returned to Saint Pierre.

The prince (for we must call him so) pursues his excursion followed by a court of seventeen or eighteen gentlemen. He

* Fort-Royal is seven leagues from Saint Pierre, and the same distance from Cul-de-sac Marin,

+ The officer who laid this wager, was the narrator of this anecdote.

[ocr errors]

arrives at St. Pierre, traverses the streets as in triumph, sends notice to the Jesuits that he intends to lodge with them, and on his way chooses precisely the road which passes before the governor's house. The latter, who was looking through the blinds exclaims on seeing him pass : “it is absolutely the picture of his mother and sister ;” and immediately as if attacked with a vertigo he leaves Saint Pierre and returns to Fort-Royal, leave ing the field to his adversary, who joked at his flight and said to those who mentioned it to him; “your general is a runaway; but I will catch him for you; I will fetch back his ears*.”

Now then the prince was established at the Jesuits' convent. He no longer concealed himself; he had formed his household. The marquis d'Eragny is his grand equery; Duval Ferrol and Laurent Dufont, (this was he who recognized him at the same time as Bois-Fermé,) are his gentlemen; Rhodez, his page. He holds his court, has regular audiences, to which go on the one hand the crowd who have petitions to present against the government, and on the other the principal officers of the colony who come to pay their respects to the prince; among these are M. de Ranché, the intendant, and one Martin Poinsable, local governor of Martinique, who having always done every thing with money or for

money, saw nothing better to get himself into favour than to offer his purse together with his services. The prince turned his back without making him any answer. This was not the first offer of the kind he had refused; and besides, a particular circumstance at this time enabled him to despise them.

The duke of Penthiévre possessed at Martinique considerable sums of money, which were entrusted to a confidential person charged with laying them out to advantage. This gentleman had not been among the last to present himself before his master's brother-in-law. The prince had received him very well, had conversed with him in private for half an hour, after which both cash and cashier were placed at his highness' disposal.


When runaway negroes were caught, it was customary at Martinique to cut off their ears.

If any doubts had yet existed respecting the principality, no more would have been necessary to dissipate them. Liewain, this was the agent's name, had the reputation of being a prudent and honest man; he had resisted with spirit and ability the marquis of Caylus' attempts to engage him in his speculations; he would not, it was said, have allowed himself to be so grossly taken in by a lad of eighteen. He was moreover intimately acquainted with the affairs and connexions of the house of Penthiévre; in order to convince him, the prince must necessarily have communicated to him details of a very particular nature; he must even have had very cogent reasons for giving him in such a manner the disposal of his money. Thus the arrival of a pi ce of Modena at Martinique, which could at first be only explain as the frolic of a youth, now assumed in the eyes of the wiseacres of the island, all the appearance of a political mystery.

The prince had yet been only three days at the Jesuits'; he had shown himself on horseback and on foot in all the streets; had walked about, leaning affectedly upon his equery; had supped at the countess de Rochechonart's; had played at cards; had been in the society of the ladies, polite, but cold, lofty and embarrassed.* This was attributed to etiquette. If any chanced to think otherwise, they took good care not to say so.

The Jesuits were proud of the honour done to their convent, the Dominicans jealous, so that in order to content them, the prince, on his return from a little excursion to Saint Pierre, did them the pleasure to take.


his residence with them.t The reception they gave him was even more magnificent than that of the Jesuits. A table of thirty covers was every day served

up for the prince; to which he caused to be invited by his gentlemen the different persons whom he wished to favour. He ate his repasts in public, with trumpets sounding; and but for a

* He soon got rid of his embarrassment. It is supposed he met with some assistance on the occasion.

† They say too that he was afraid of remaining longer exposed to the piercing eyes of the old father principal of the Jesuits, a man of sense and experience, who had lived a long time in Italy.

$ This affair cost the Dominicans forty-two thousand livres.

« PreviousContinue »