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TALES AND FICTIONS.
THE FAMILY OF PERRAULT.
A SMALL mound of sand, overgrown by a thin turf of parched and sickly verdure, points out the spot, in the European burial-place at Pondicherry, where M. Casimir Perrault, whose memory still lives in the hearts of the French residents of that settlement, reposes from his earthly sorrows.
Pondicherry, to an ordinary traveller, presents little that is worth notice. Yet it is not devoid of interest to those who take a retrospect of the rapid vicissitudes of the war, carried on with such protracted obstinacy by the British and French powers in India. In other respects, it is little more than a dilapidated fortress, washed by the sea on one side, and on the other affording a barren prospect of sandy plains varied with a succession of low hills, a continuation of the Pulicat chain, bare and rocky, with here and there a patch of withered herbage. The attachment, however, of the French residents to a place once the most splendid theatre of their military achievements in the East, may be easily accounted for (though the greater number derive scarcely the means of subsistence from a few scanty salaries irregularly remitted and grudgingly paid) by the innocent vanity of a nation, so fondly clinging to the recollections of what it had been in the days of Dupleix and Lally, the cordiality of domestic intercourse for which it is remarkable, and the true French vivacity of their evening balls and coteries, where the most graceful forms glide along the dance, or engage in interesting discussions of the latest Parisian fashions—the same forms, elegantly dressed, that, in the morning, you might have caught in their most dowdy dishabilles, without shoe or stocking.
M. Casimir Perrault was one of the most respectable Frenchmen at Pondicherry. Before the revolutionary war, he was one of the council, and received a decent but ill-paid salary. It was said, also, that, foreseeing the iron times of the revolution, he had converted, before he left France, a great part of his ancestral property into money, which furnished a small contribution of capital to the house of commercial agency in which he was a partner. His wish was to remain there, in the bo
som of his small family, (two sons and a daughter,) till the political storm that brooded over France should be overpast. Though little more than fifty when the writer was acquainted with him, he was so wrinkled by care and solicitude, that he might have passed for a much older man.
The Perrault family led a life which might be deemed happy, if to want little, and to have that little supplied, can be called happiness. But if Casimir had an ambition or hope beyond so narrow a sphere, it was centred in his eldest boy, Louis Perrault, upon whom he had bestowed the most careful education it was in his power to give him, He cherished the dream, that Louis was destined to revive the ancient honours of his house; and as the bar was then, and in every period of the French revolution, a lucrative and honourable profession, he resolved upon sending him to Paris, in order to pursue the preliminary studies at the university. This probation would require about three years, and by that time, he hoped, the indications of a troubled state of society would have ceased in his native land, or, settling into some stable and tranquil frame of policy, would enable him to return to it with the fruits of his industry. All his little savings, therefore, had for some time been directed to this object; and to accomplish it, a considerable portion of his means was too partially lavished upon Louis.
With much volatility, the young man had qualities, which judicious culture might have ripened into virtues. But fits of wayward resolution, and headstrong self-will, occasionally came over him, and these were suffered to strike too deep a root during a course of private education, chiefly conducted by a parent, too blind to the faults of a child he loved so ardently. They showed their usual fruits, in an extravagant opinion of his own powers, and a peevish intolerance of contradiction from others. The father's eyes were reluctantly opened to the faults that darkened his son's character, before the time came for his departure by the Danish vessel in which his passage had been taken. Henri, his younger brother, moreover, was to accompany him to Europe, though with a different destination in life, his uncle, Antoine Perrault, a considerable landed proprietor in Britanny, having assured his father that a sphere of useful activity might be opened for him in that province, and undertaking to provide for him liberally, in exchange for certain farming services that would be required of him.
In the morning of October the 21st, 1791, the ship, that was to sever the two lads from their