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ORPHANS OF NORMANDY;
FLORENTIN AND LUCIE.
In the depths of a thick forest, in the beautiful province of Normandy, is an ancient château, which has appertained for many years past to an illustrious family of the name of L
Florentin, Baron de L, the head and representative of this family, immediately before the revolution, was a man of a haughty and insolent spirit, and one who rendered himself suspected among the different parties which divided the country, by the free and unguarded manner in which he delivered his opinions on every subject, and especially on those points which affected his own interests. The baron had married, though not very early in life, and had been left a widower, with one daughter, soon after his marriage; and as he was not capable of enjoying domestic happiness, he never thought of forming a second connexion of a similar kind; but, sending his daughter to be educated in a convent in the capital, henceforward devoted himself to those rural sports which at that period commonly formed the amusement of noblemen when residing on their lands.
In this manner passed the time till Mademoiselle Lucie de L- was of an age to be taken from the convent in order to be married. The husband chosen by the baron for his daughter was a young nobleman, the son of an old companion of his youth, and one who little to recommend him but his family, and the reversion of a large estate in one of the southern provinces,
Within two years of this marriage, the baron found himself the grandfather of a beautiful boy, on whom the name of Florentin was bestowed, and who was for a while the darling of the two noble families from whom he was descended.
In the mean time, the country became every day more violently agitated by various political opinions, and every head was filled with visions of reform and plans of political improvement.
Many, even among the nobility, became influenced with extravagant principles; and thus assisted in preparing that fire on which their honours, their properties, and the lives of many, were to be sacrificed.
Among these indiscreet persons, none was more violent than the young Count de S, husband of Lucie de L - ; and as his principles were utterly contrary to those of his father-in-law, a considerable coolness ensued between them ; which was rather increased than counteracted by Madame de S - who had imbibed her husband's political opinions in their utmost extent, and who failed not in all companies to expatiate largely on the subject of reform, the rights of the people, and the tyranny of the legislative powers.
The consequence of this difference of opinion in the several branches of the family was, that after a while the baron became totally separated from his daughter, who henceforward resided with her husband at Paris ; and the little Florentin was deprived from that period of the caresses of his maternal grandfather.
In the mean time, the affairs of the royal party became every day more and more involved ; and at length such became the horrors and alarms of the times, that many of the nobility were forced to leave their estates, and withdraw in haste to foreign countries.
Among the first of these persons who were compelled to fly from their native land, was the Baron de L-; and such was the haste with which he was driven to make his escape, that he had no opportunity of giving his daughter notice of his flight, nor of securing to himself so much of his property as might enable him to live in tolerable comfort in the banishment to which he was reduced.
Immediately after the flight of Monsieur de Lhis château was seized by the populace, and, after having been pillaged, was in part destroyed, and then utterly forsaken.
The village church, which was situated in a solitary part of the same forest which encircled the château, experienced the same, or a worse fate, and, after being deprived of its steeple and part of its roof, was entirely abandoned, and became a habitation for foxes, and the dwelling of owls and bats.
When Madame de S heard of the flight of the baron, she congratulated herself on the dissimilarity of her husband's politics from those of her father; hoping that his safety would be ensured, during every revolutionary tumult, by the party which he had taken. But while her triumph was yet new, the public affairs took an unexpected turn; her husband became suspected, was arrested, and shortly afterward perished on the scaffold.
After this terrible event, Madame de s- being left without friends, without resource, and in danger of being implicated in her husband's fall, was compelled, in order to preserve her life, to associate herself with the low people who were then in power, and was at length reduced to the necessity of making a second marriage with a man of low birth, brutal manners, and violent politics.
Monsieur le Visac, who now became the husband of the daughter of the Baron de L- was one of those persons at that time called Terrorists. It was not to be supposed that such a man could obtain the affections of an elegant female. Nevertheless, Madame le Visac found herself obliged, from fear, to affect a regard for him which she never experienced; and during this unhappy period she had little consolation but in the presence of her son, who was now arrived at such an age as to become in some degree the confidant of her afflictions.
In the mean time, the streets of the capital were deluged with the blood of many of the noble and the excellent of the earth, and terror and apprehension visited every private dwelling throughout this beautiful realm.
Monsieur le Visac preserved his station, on the summit of the wheel of fortune, for many months during this dreadful period, and was thus enabled to keep his family in a state of the highest affluence, and in almost regal pomp for the whole of that time. But, upon the death of Robespierre, affairs taking a new turn, he was proscribed, fell into contempt and abhorrence, and being
deprived of all his ill-gotten gains, shortly afterward died in obscurity.
After the death of her second husband, Madame le Visac being again left in a state of widowhood, and having lost with her fortune and consideration in society all those summer friends whom she had owed to these circumstances only, had no other resource but to fly from Paris, and endeavour to conceal herself in some retired situation. Her mind now returned with fond recollection to the woods of Normandy, the haunts of her childhood; and she accordingly withdrew, with her son, who was now nearly seven years of age, from that capital where she had experienced so many severe reverses of fortune, in the vain hope of finding peace of mind in retirement.
She recollected an old servant of the family, in whose solitary dwelling, in the depth of the forest of Lshe trusted she might remain unsought by all the enemies of her husband, and unknown to those of her father.
Madame le Visac had saved nothing from the wreck of her husband's property but a small sum of money, a little stock of clothes, and a few favourite books. With this, her little treasure, she arrived at the cottage of Agnace du Bois (the peasant above mentioned), who received her with the utmost kindness, and freely offered her every comfort and concealment which her rude habitation could afford.
I have frequently mentioned, during the course of my narrative, the son of Madame le Visac: I now farther add, when this unfortunate woman arrived in Normandy, she expected shortly that another little one would be added to her family :-a circumstance which added much to the grief of this young and unfortunate female, who possessed none of that pious confidence in the Almighty which deprives the widow and the fatherless of half their cares, and adds such sweetness to the half which still remains, that the pious sufferer is ever ready to exclaim, with the holy Psalmist, “ It is good for me to be afflicted !”
But religion was a subject which had never occupied any part of the attention of Madame le Visac ; it was
therefore to be wondered at, if this poor creature, being left without either earthly or heavenly support,