19th Century

The Appointment: A Tale | G.W.M. Reynolds

It was in the year 1785—on a fine evening, in the month of May —that three young students, in the uniform of the Military College of Paris, were occupied in the pleasant discussion of a repast in the restaurant at St. Cloud which overlooks the park, and which every visitor of the present day to that sacred shrine of gastronomy knows by the name of Legriel’s.[1]

The first of the three individuals, whom we have thus abruptly alluded to, was about sixteen years of age, with a peculiar expression of countenance, which inspired respect rather than any softer feeling, and a blue eye that was in itself a soul. His companions were his juniors—probably by about a few months; and they were two fine, tall, handsome young men, with commanding though graceful figures, and eagle glances which bespoke all the military enthusiasm that filled their bosoms.

“Waiter—more wine!” cried one of the youths last alluded to. “And you, Henri—pass the champagne to our host. This is the last time we may quaff a jovial glass together for many years.”

“You are right, Paul,” said the young man, with the expressive blue eyes. “But, at our next meeting, pray to God that I shall be able to regale you as at present.”

“To-morrow morning we depart to join our respective regiments,” observed he, whom one of his companions had addressed as Henri. “For five years we have now been school or college companions—at Brienne first—and then in Paris…”

“A truce to sentimentality, Henri!” exclaimed Paul. “Here is more wine—let us drink and be gay!”

The young man who presided, slowly poured out a bumper of champagne, nodded to his friends, and said, “Success to our un­dertakings in the service of chivalry and of France!”

“Oh! your career is certain,” cried Paul, enthusiastically: “when you first came to Brienne, at eleven years of age—”

“Ten,” interrupted the young aspirant.

“At ten, then,” continued Paul, “you already talked of muskets —and of manoeuvres—and of battles, as if you were a man. I wonder what we shall all be this day twenty years!”

“Colonels, I hope,” said Henri, following up, in youthful mirth, the playful language of his companion.

“This day twenty years, we will meet in Paris, provided we be all in this world,” said the young student who presided, while his blue eyes shone with unusual lustre; “and let emulation urge us on to see who will outstrip the others in the race after fortune.”

“An appointment! an appointment!” shouted Paul, clapping his hands together.

“Perhaps this appointment, which we make in a moment of mirth, may really be kept,” observed Henri: “I will endeavour to preserve it, for one;”—and, by way of completing that which he, of course, regarded as little better than a joke, he entered the memo­randum in his pocket-book.

“Well, if you be thus serious, I must e’en imitate your example,” cried Paul, and he also made a note of the appointment in his tablets.

The president of the little banquet pointed to his forehead, and said, “I shall retain the recollection of it here!”

“Now,that this child’s play—which, by the bye, is really un­worthy of us—is over,” said Paul Laudry, “let us pass our last evening together in the most pleasant manner possible.”

“Another bottle of champagne,” exclaimed Henri, whose cognomen was Delaroche; “and then we will return to Paris, where I propose amuse ourselves a little at the Academy of Music.”

“The Opera—by all means!” coincided Paul; and the scheme was put into execution.

But it is not our purpose to enter into minute details relative to the proceedings of the three youths with whom we have thus more or less made our readers acquainted. It is sufficient to observe that on the following morning they laid aside their College uniforms, assumed plain clothes, and bade each other adieu beneath the portal of that seminary in which their friendship had matured. Three post-chaises were waiting in the court-yard to convey them to the stations of their respective regiments; and, as they separated from each other to ascend the steps of their vehicles, they, with one accord, exclaimed, smiling, “Forget not the Appointment, twenty years hence, in Paris!”

Paul and Henri forgot the injunction the moment it was uttered; but their less volatile friend did not so readily banish it from his memory. We must, however, leave the two latter for the present, and follow the fortunes of Paul Laudry.

The post-chaise, which bore him away from that College where his military education had been perfected, rolled rapidly along the road towards Versailles; and, when it arrived in that town, it stopped at the door of the principal hotel, where Paul alighted. Having ordered a repast to be prepared for him in the course of a couple of hours, he proceeded to the gardens of the palace, with which the hotel communicated by a back gate, and hastily threaded his way through the long labyrinths of verdure to the most secluded part of the enclosure. A young lady, attended by a female domestic, was seated upon a bench at the spot thus sought by the young officer; and no sooner did the sound of his footsteps fall upon her ears, than: she glanced hastily around, and in another moment was folded in his arms. The servant withdrew to a little distance, to allow the lovers to converse at their ease; and they seated themselves together on the bench, joy flashing from their eyes.

“At length you are an officer, my dear Paul,” said the beautiful girl—for she was one of the most lovely of God’s creatures. Her eyes were dark blue, rolling in a milky way, and resembling that light in Orion which a celebrated modern astronomer has deemed the centre of the universe. They were eyes that would have afforded ample scope for the effusions of a Catullus, or the encomiums of an Ovid. Her figure, although she herself could scarcely have numbered sixteen summers, was modelled in all the mature and voluptuous symmetry of womanhood. And upon the young military aspirant did this fair creature dote with all the fondness of a Leath for her Meignoun: for love is not the menial of the mind—it is the master. It will not obey the words of a commander, like the willing soldier’s deference to the centurion. It will not depart when mortal ephem­erons exclaim “Go!” It comes not when we bid it approach; but it advances at will, slyly, and silently, and by degrees. It usurps a seat in the human heart almost before that heart is aware of its presence—much less of its ravage. It will frequently lie concealed for months, like a rose modestly veiled in verdure, till the most trivial circumstance reveal it—a word—a look—a motion—or a sigh!

“So at length you are an officer,” said the maiden, as she glanced fondly towards her lover.

“A Lieutenant in the gallant Fifty-seventh, my dearest Eugenie,” replied Paul Laudry. “And now let me return thee my best thanks for thy punctuality. My note was hastily written—but it was explicit.”

“And you have but an hour to pass with me!” observed Eu­genie, in a mournful tone of voice.

“One or two hours, my dearest girl,” was the answer; “and then I must depart to join my regiment. But, alas! perhaps, when I am away, Eugenie Delaroche will forget her poor Paul—and a happier rival will win the hand of the high-born daughter of one of France’s proudest peers!”

“Paul, you wrong me,” said the young lady, firmly. “I do not attempt to blind myself for one moment to the conviction that my father will do everything to oppose our union; but you have a powerful advocate and friend in my brother Henri.”

“Still I have no fortune save my sword; but I possess an enter­prising spirit, Eugenie;—and, since thou art to be won, I must dare every thing in the rude storms of this life to create for myself a name.”

“Maintain your character as a true and loyal son of France, Paul,” said Eugenie, her blue eyes lighting up with sudden fire, “and the prejudices of my father may be overcome. You know that he him­self’ was a soldier of fortune—and that his devotion to his sovereign procured for him a title and a considerable pension.”

“The former he has never disgraced, and with the latter he has done much good,” said a loud voice, as Eugenie terminated her sentence; and in a moment, an elderly man, of aristocratic mien, stood before the astonished lovers.

“My lord, forgive me!” exclaimed Paul Laudry, sinking upon his knees.

“Oh! my dear father!” cried Eugenie, about to imitate her lover’s example.

“Rise, M. Laudry—kneel not, daughter,” said the old General—for such was his military rank: “I have accidentally overheard a portion of your conversation; and the honourable sentiments uttered by both are creditable to you. I will not impede the hap­piness of my daughter—nor will I carelessly suffer her to espouse one who is unable to support her in the rank of life in which she has hitherto moved. These are stormy times, young man—and, if I mistake not, there will be more occupation yet for the armies of France. Go, then—Laudry—go: and, when you shall have done aught to render you worthy an affiance with the house of Delaroche, return—and Eugenie shall be yours.”

The Marquis took his daughter’s hand, bade the young soldier a hasty adieu, beckoned to the domestic (who had remained a silent spectator, at a little distance, of all that had passed,) and turned into another avenue which led towards his own dwelling. The lovers exchanged a significant glance of mingled joy and sorrow—and Paul returned to his hotel, a prey to a thousand conflicting emotions.

He hurried over the repast that was set before him, and ordered the horses to be put to his vehicle. In half an hour he was once more on the road to join his regiment, which was stationed at a small fortified town about sixty or seventy miles distant from the metro­polis.

We do not intend to detail all the adventures our young hero passed through during the first seven or eight years of his noviciate in the army. Let us at once proceed to inform our readers, that having conducted himself, during that period, in a manner which gained for him the esteem of his brother officers, and the veneration of his subordinates, he found himself a captain at the age of three­and-twenty, when the fury of that terrible revolution broke out, which, like the fall of a colossal edifice, seemed to threaten ruin and destruction to everything within its scope. The regiment to which Laudry belonged speedily declared itself in favour of the people; and Paul, not only in obedience to the dictates of his own heart, but also in accordance with the views and sentiments of the father of his betrothed, with whom he frequently corresponded, was obliged to escape from the wrath of those soldiers that once had revered him. He refused to serve the Convention—and retreated with precipitation to Versailles.

On his arrival at that town he immediately repaired to the resi­dence of the Marquis of Delaroche, his heart beating high with the hope of once more embracing his much-loved Eugenie, whom he had seen but once since the parting ere now described. But, to his dismay and grief, he found that the whole family had departed for England, to avoid the vengeance of republican fury. An old porter still remained in the house; and to him was it that Paul addressed himself. After a brief conversation, which merely made our hero aware of the fact and date of the Marquis’s departure, the venerable concierge suddenly recollected that he had a letter for Captain Laudry. Paul hastily opened the precious document, the superscription of which he immediately recognized to be in the handwriting of his Eugenie, and read the following words:—

By the desire of my father, I write to you, my dear Paul, to inform you that we are obliged to fly from our native land—exiled from our home—and that we shall seek refuge in London, whither you must follow us, if you value your safety as I value it. I have but time to mention the afflicting news, that my brother Henri—your old school-fellow and friend—has joined the side of the Conven­tion. My poor old father is nearly distracted; but he knows that you are loyal and true to your rightful monarch.—Adieu, dear Paul, and follow us immediately.


Laudry did not hesitate for one moment what course to pursue. To remain in France was not only useless—it was worse—it was madness. He accordingly hastened to Calais, whence he embarked for Dover, and arrived safely upon a hospitable shore. He immedi­ately proceeded to London, and soon joined the family of the noble Marquis.

For some time hopes were entertained that the tide of French affairs might take a turn favourable to the royalist party. But those who were thus sanguine in their expectations were sadly mistaken. Toulon was wrested from the hands of the English by a warrior whose future greatness eclipsed all the glory of Caesar and of Pompey, or of any commander that ever existed before him. The Duke of York experienced a most disgraceful defeat at the hands of Houchard before Dunkirk—the siege of Maubeuge was raised by the intrepid Jourdain—and the Committee of Public Safety was enabled to pass a decree for arming and employing all the male population of France in defence of the country. The Marquis Delaroche saw that the royal cause was now lost, at least for a considerable length of time; and he himself was the first to propose that the hands of Paul Laudry and Eugenie should be united in the bands of holy matri­mony. The ceremony was accordingly performed in the Roman Catholic faith, and our young hero was rendered supremely happy by the possession of her he had so long and faithfully adored.

Six months passed away, and the felicity of the newly-married couple was uninterrupted, save by the consciousness that rank and fortune in their native land were most probably lost to them forever. The Marchioness Delaroche endeavoured to soothe the grief of her noble husband; and Eugenie undertook the same task in reference to Paul. But those two faithful adherents to the royal cause de­voured in secret their despair and their sorrows.

One evening, Captain Laudry was informed that a stranger was desirous of speaking to him in an adjacent hotel. Paul hastily pro­ceeded to the place of rendezvous, and was introduced into a room which an individual, in somewhat quaint attire, and with long hair flowing over his shoulders, was rapidly pacing. As Paul entered the apartment, the stranger turned to meet him; and our hero im­mediately recognized the features of his brother-in -law, Henri Delaroche.

“Not a word—mention not my name!” said the republican, pointing to a seat; and, without expressing the slightest pleasure at thus meeting an old friend, Henri proceeded coolly and tranquilly to observe, “I have come to England at the greatest possible risk and personal danger to myself—I am come to claim the services of a misled father and an infatuated brother-in-law, for regenerated France!”

“You know, then, that I have espoused your sister,” said Paul, astonished at the extraordinary frigidity of his relation’s disposition.

“I was made aware of it a few weeks ago, by one of our spies, who returned from London to Paris,” was the reply; “and I thought that this union argued favourably for my father’s present views of society. He has suffered his aristocratic blood to comingle with that of a commoner: this is the first step towards republicanism.”

“Insult not your father’s grey hairs, Henri,” exclaimed Paul, with unusual vehemence. “He is as incapable of treachery to his sovereign—”

“When a sovereign errs,” interrupted Henri, fiercely, “he is responsible to his people; and, in the punishment of a dishonest monarch, there is no treason.”

“We will not argue a point of opinion,” said Paul. “Let me only observe that these will never be your father’s sentiments—nor mine. Your mission, then, is useless.”

“In that case I must see my father myself,” coolly remarked the republican, rising from his chair. “I thought to have first found an able and a willing advocate in my old school-fellow, and my brother-in-law. It appears that I am mistaken; and, instead of the noble and generous Frenchman, who knows how to value the blessing of liberty, I find a grovelling and obstinate slave, hugging the very chain from which he will not suffer his more enlightened friends to emancipate him.”

“Henri, you are my wife’s brother,” said Paul, “or these words would not—”

“I came not to dispute with you,” exclaimed Henri, very tran­quilly motioning towards the door; “my object was to place my father and yourself upon the high road to fame and fortune.”

“Things must change, Henri,” observed Paul, bitterly; then, as a sudden reminiscence flashed across his brain, he added, “and the twenty years have not yet passed away. Does our appointment still hold good?”

“A truce to irony,” hastily ejaculated the republican. “My time is precious—I must see my father.”

“I much fear,” observed Paul, “that he will not listen to your opinions and arguments with even so much patience as myself.”

“He is older, and more open to conviction,” said Henri. “Lead on—for I will follow you.”

Captain Laudry did not hesitate a moment: he fondly anticipated that the appeal of a father might shake the resolves of a son; and he perceived that an immense advantage would be gained by the royal cause, if an influential officer, like Henri Delaroche, who held the rank of Colonel in the armies of the Convention, could be won over to the legitimate party.

But, oh! the scene that ensued was too painful for description. In the middle of the drawing-room stood the stern republican, with folded arms, and eagle glances darted towards his father. And that venerable old man—with his long grey hair—was preparing to ana­thematize his son; and he was only prevented by the weeping Mar­chioness and the agonized Eugenie. And still the republican main­tained all his calmness and equanimity of temper—and he dropped not a single tear at the sight of parental suffering.

“Alas! that I should have lived to see the ancient family of Delaroche disgraced by my own child!” cried the venerable Marquis, almost mad with rage and grief: “instead of being the prop of a noble house, there—there stands the man who would hurl it to the ground, and bury it, together with all other national distinctions. Oh! my God—what have I done, thus to be afflicted?”

“Father—my dear father!” cried Eugenie, falling upon her knees, “in the name of Heaven, compose yourself.”

“My son, my son!” screamed the miserable mother, “would’st thou kill the author of thy being? Remember, Henri, oh! remem­ber, that when you were a boy, no father could be more tender to his offspring than he was to you. Oh! he watched over you, Henri—he doted upon you—he spoke of you with the interest, the love, the pride, the affection of a fond—fond parent: and this is his reward!”

And, as the Marchioness sobbed bitterly, a smile of pity curled the lip of the stern and unrelenting republican.

“Oh! depart—fly—before he curses you!” exclaimed Eugenie to her brother; “for a father’s curse is terrible to think upon!”

The soldier of the Convention laughed outright; for he knew of no other ties save those which linked him with the welfare of his country.

“He dares me—he dares me!” cried the old man, wildly: “he dares me—but I will not curse him! Oh! no—he is my son—he is still my son—my son—and I will not, I may not curse him!”

The venerable Marquis fell back in his daughter’s arms, as he uttered these words in a tone of voice which bespoke the deepest mental agony; Eugenie gave vent to a piercing scream—the Marquis rolled upon the floor—Paul rushed forward to raise him—but his spirit had fled forever!

“Wretch! thou hast murdered thy father!” ejaculated Paul Laudry, in a voice of thunder.

“Oh! Horror!—but he is my son!” cried Madame Delaroche.

Paul gazed upon the republican with a look of indescribable aversion: that glance was returned by one of the most deadly hatred on the part of Henri: those two men understood each other but too well—they felt that they were thenceforth destined to be deadly foes—and they uttered not a word. Henri slowly drew towards the spot where the corpse of his father lay—the fine feelings of nature were not all stifled in his bosom—he stooped down and imprinted a kiss upon the cold forehead of his deceased sire—and then retreated slowly from the apartment.

Time passed away: the tomb had closed over the parents of Eugenie; and two smiling children had blessed her union with Paul Laudry, when, in the year 1800, a proclamation was issued by the first consul of France, Napoleon Buonaparte, inviting all emi­grant constitutionalists to return to France. Paul gladly availed him­self of this amnesty; his heart was still true to the cause of his exiled sovereign, and he hoped to be enabled to benefit the cause of the Bourbons by his presence in the French capital. Nor was Eugenie displeased at the prospect of again visiting her native land. Although the smallness of the competency which the late Marquis had been enabled to save from the wreck of his fortunes would totally preclude the family of Laudry from indulging in all the plea­sures and expenses to which Eugenie had in early youth been accus­tomed, she nevertheless looked forward with feelings of delight to the prospect of again dwelling in the splendid city of her birth. Her wishes, and those of her husband, were speedily gratified; and, in the commencement of the year 1802, they were once more domiciled in Paris.

In the meantime, the hero of a thousand battles—that meteor which blazed so bright, and which so long terrified all the nations of the universe with its supernal lustre—had paved the way to his future aggrandizement, and laid the foundation of the throne to be shortly filled by the conqueror of the Pyramids and of Marengo. The Aus­trian banners were soon to grace his triumphal car; and as a military dictator, was he destined to give laws not only to France, but to Europe. It is true that at this period the column in the Place Ven­d6me was not yet built; but its materials were in preparation ; and the mighty victor had already commenced that career which was to furnish the metal for the monument of his conquests, and enable Victor Hugo in after years thus to celebrate his achievements in immortal verse:—

Such was his task!—The roaring culverin

The spur, the sabre, and the mortar’s din—

These were his earliest sports, till Egypt gave

Her ancient Pyramids, his smile to save;

Then, when th’ imperial crown adorn’d his brow,

He raised the monument we rev’rence now.

He raised that monument!—

The grandest age

Which e’er th’ historian’s annals might engage,

Furnished the subject—and the end of time

Shall boast that emblem of his course sublime,

Where Rhine and Tyber rolled in crimson flood,

And the tall snow-capped Alps all trembling stood!

For even as the giant race of old

Ossa on Pelion, mount on mountain roll’d

To scale high heaven’s towers—so he has made

His battles serve to help his escalade:

And thus, to gratify his fancy wild,

Wagram, Arcole, on Austerlitz were piled![2]

The reader must pardon this digression, which originated in the thrilling interest of the subject. Paul Laudry perceived the growing influence of Napoleon, and was aware that, if ever a blow were to be struck, the moment was fast approaching. He accordingly resolved to exert himself to the utmost of his endeavours in the cause of the exiled Bourbons.

It was about this time that circumstances occurred which gradually undermined the domestic happiness of Eugenie. She was fondly at­tached to her husband, and was naturally jealous in her disposition. It was therefore with the most acute and poignant anguish that she became aware of frequent letters being secretly left for him at the porters lodge. They had been married upwards of eight years, and never till this period had the slightest sentiment of jealousy obtained ingress to the heart of Eugenie. But now the conduct of her hus­band was inexplicable: she had once remonstrated with him for re­ceiving letters unknown to her; and he had steadfastly denied the fact; and, alas! she could no longer doubt—she bribed the porter of the house, and thus became aware of the terrible reality. She then vituperated herself for her own conduct, in having condescended to such measures to arrive at the truth: but the lively imagination of woman is ever fertile in the invention of argument to soothe the pangs of her own conscience in all matters connected with her love. Eugenie was therefore speedily tranquillized upon this head; but re­lative to the supposed infidelity of her husband—oh! no pen can describe the anguish which she nourished in secret, and which she endeavoured to conceal even from him who was the cause of her grief !

Paul did not fail to observe that something was preying upon the mind of his beloved wife; and he did everything he could to console her. Then she would appear gay for a short interval—and her spirits would rally—and she would say to herself, “He still loves me!” And then Paul would leave her, and absent himself from the house the whole day, and very often for the greater portion of the night; and the porter would inform her that another letter, mys­teriously delivered at the lodge, had arrived for her husband; and she was once more a prey to the most poignant grief. Such jealousy only emanated from the purest love; and such love is only to be found in the breast of woman! Her love cannot be destroyed like fra­gile glass; its image may not be effaced from the memory like a passing dream. Her love is the soul itself; it enjoys an invisible existence; it cures itself with its own balm; it fortifies itself by its own energies; it does not recommence—for it never ceases. At one period, it is ardent and passionate—at another, languishing and docile; now heated and feverish—then calm and reflective; now jealous and unjust—then forgiving and blind to a fault; now like the bursting volcano—then smooth as the placid lake; at one moment selfish and cruel—at another, generous and kind. The principles of true love belong not to time, but to eternity: they possess a faculty of regeneration, and an impossibility of total decay—a youth­fulness of passion blooming simultaneously with all the most beauteous flowers, like the rose-trees of Paestum which blossom twice in one year!

Such was the love of Eugenie Laudry for her husband; and com­mensurate with her affection was the amount of her jealousy.

One evening she was seated with her two children in the dining-room, upon the table of which stood the untasted supper, and was anxiously awaiting the return of her husband, whose absence from home had lately been of more frequent occurrence than ever. Up­wards of three years had passed away since she was first a prey to that passion which was consuming her. It was then towards the middle of 1805, that we again introduce her to the reader. The clock had struck eleven—still Paul came not—the evening meal had been long served up—it was soon cold—and she herself felt not the want of food. The children shortly retired with their servant—and Eugenie was again alone.

The night was stormy and tempestuous, and the rain beat in torrents against the window-panes. Suddenly a low knock at the door of the apartment in which Eugenie was seated aroused her; and, when she desired the person, whoever it might be, to enter, an individual, enveloped in a dark cloak, stole softly into the room. Eugenie almost screamed with affright, as she recognised the features of her brother.

“I have been long absent from France,” said the still stern and se­vere Henri Delaroche, “upon a mission of great import, to America—a private mission—for my imperial master; and, on my return a few days ago, I learnt that you were again living in Paris. For three years-and-a-half I have been absent: for twelve years I have not seen my sister: on what terms do we meet?”

“Wherefore that question?” asked Eugenie. “Are you not my brother?”

“And Paul?” said Henri; “he is also with you?”

“Oh! Paul!” exclaimed Eugenie, overcome by her feelings, and clasping her hands together, for she recollected how happy was her love when she last saw her brother, and how miserable it was at that moment.

“Ah! what of Paul?” demanded Henri, casting a searching glance at his sister. “Does he not still love you?”

This question, which half originated in irony, was mistaken by the forlorn Eugenie for one of kindness and condolence. She had no confident—she felt that she was now with her brother, whom she had once so tenderly loved—and, yielding to the impulse of the moment, and the violence of her own feelings, she threw herself into his arms, and sobbed out the secret of her jealousy, and the cause, on her brother’s bosom. He listened—he devoured every word she tittered, with avidity—and then, when she had no more to say, he calmly placed her upon the sofa. Eugenie felt relieved by the avowal she had made;—it is always sweet to be enabled to pour our griefs into the ears of relations, be they never so devoid of sym­pathy—and this was a terrible load taken from her mind.

At this moment, the door of the apartment was gently opened, and the porter of the house crept slowly into the room.

Eugenie almost shrieked as her eye lighted upon his countenance. The old man was about to retire so soon as he perceived that Madame Laudry was not alone.

“You may speak,” said Eugenie: ” that gentleman is my brother —and he knows all.”

“Another letter has just arrived for Monsieur Laudry,” murmured the porter, in a trembling tone of voice.

“Eugenie,” said Henri, striding hastily towards his sister, “your’s is only suspicion, is it not?—you are not jealous upon con­viction?”

Eugenie shook her head, to imply that she was not positively cer­tain that she had cause to mistrust her husband; she then buried her face in her hands, and wept bitterly.

“Old man,” said Henri, “take this purse; and bring me that letter of which you have just spoken.”

“But, Sir—”

“Obey! or I will disclose all your infamy in accepting bribes, and betraying the affairs of your lodgers,” added Henri, in an authori­tative tone of voice.

The old man bowed, withdrew, and speedily returned, bearing a letter in his hand. Henri seized it, tore it hastily open, and ran his eyes over the contents. A demoniac smile of triumph curled his lip.

“Here,—read,” he said, approaching Eugenie: “here is the let­ter which doubtless contains the fatal secret.”

At these words Madame Laudry raised her head; and, acting under a sudden impulse of curiosity which none in her situation could have avoided, she snatched the letter from her brother’s hand, for the purpose of perusing the contents. But, to her astonishment, the document contained nothing but figures!

“Extraordinary!” exclaimed Eugenie, fancying that her worst fears were confirmed: “this is the scheme adopted to defeat cu­riosity!” and she again wept like a young girl who mourns the hap­lessness of a first love.

“Adieu—adieu! dear sister,” said Henri: “Paul may return—and I would rather not meet him yet. I will shortly visit you again.”

“But that letter—”

“We must destroy it. I will take that duty upon myself;” and with these words he rushed hastily from the apartment.

Eugenie felt that she had done wrong in suffering him to depart with the letter. Her heart sank within her, she knew not where­fore—and when her husband returned at midnight, she was wretched and miserable.

On the following morning, when the first repast was cleared away, Paul, instead of rising from the table and leaving the house, as had been his habit for many months previously, dismissed the children and the servant from the parlour in which he and his wife were seat­ed, and addressed Eugenie as follows:—

My dear Eugenie, for the last three years my conduct may have appeared more or less extraordinary; but I would not harrass and perplex your gentle bosom by a history of my transactions. I have, however, now organised my scheme—a plan is arranged, by which a desperate blow in favour of the royal cause will be struck in a few days—and I hourly expect the last letter I shall receive upon the subject. These have been my aims, dearest Eugenie—

“Oh my dearest Paul, how have I been mistaken!” ejaculated Eugenie; and she gave her husband a most feeling and touching des­cription of the long torments she had experienced.

A cloud covered the brow of Laudry—he had been unjustly sus­pected by her whom he adored—and he felt aggrieved. But she sank at his feet, and implored his pardon in terms so penetrating that he could be angry with her no longer. And in that moment she appeared so eminently beautiful amidst her tears, that his ideas were instantly reflected back to the tranquil and happy period of their early love. He raised her from her suppliant posture, and clasped her fondly in his arms, just as a loud knocking at the front door of his mite of apartments compelled him and Eugenie to as­sume a look of composure and ease which they did not feel.

Heavy steps echoed in the ante-chamber—the door of the parlour was thrown violently open—and half-a-dozen gendarmes entered the room.

“Your name is Paul Laudry?” said the officer who commanded these unwelcome visitors.

“It is,” was the reply.

“In the name of his Imperial Majesty, Napoleon Buonaparte, I arrest you on a charge of high treason!” said the officer.

“For what?” demanded Paul, in a firm tone of voice.

“Do you know any thing of a letter containing a correspondence expressed by figures?” asked the officer. “All has been deciphered—and you are my prisoner. The Marquis Delaroche laid the ac­cusation, and furnished means for the proof.”

There echoed through the room a shriek—so wild—so loud—so long, that it might have been taken for the expression of the agony felt by some criminal undergoing the torture of the rack: and then a thing fell heavily upon the floor. The scream issued from the lips of Eugenie—it was Eugenie who fell. Paul instantly conjec­tured the truth of all that had happened, and gave himself up for lost!

The officer kindly allowed his prisoner to see that proper atten­tions were administered to his unhappy and heart-broken wife; and when this duty was fulfilled, Laudry prepared to accompany the gendarmes.

They descended to the court-yard, where a post-chaise was in attendance..

“On your word, as a gentleman, Sir,” said the officer, “you will not attempt an escape?”

“Sir, my word of honour in misfortune, is as sacred as my promise to do a man a service in prosperity,” returned Paul.

The officer bowed, and spoke in a whisper to the gendarmes who accompanied him. The communication was immediately followed by their departure; and Laudry and the officer stepped alone and unattended into the vehicle.

For some minutes Paul was too much absorbed in the contempla­tion of his own sorrows to notice the route which the carriage was pursuing. But when he raised his head and gazed from the window, as it turned under a high arch-way, he gave an involuntary start, and exclaimed, “This is not the entrance to the Conciergerie!”

“It is the entrance to the Place du Carrousel,” calmly replied the officer. “I am obeying the orders of my superiors.”

And in five seconds the vehicle stopped at the back entrance to the palace of the Tuileries.

“Have the kindness to take my arm, and accompany me whither I shall lead,” said the officer, when he and his prisoner had alighted from the carriage.

Laudry obeyed in mute astonishment. The officer led him up asplendid staircase, which alone proclaimed the entrance to a royal abode, and along which were ranged a few of those imperial guards whose banners had been led to conquest by the adored commander whose dwelling they now protected. Those grim-looking warriors were proud of the sacred trust consigned to them by their master and by France; and, any one, who had gazed upon them, would indeed have felt that with such followers he dared meet the assembled forces of the universe!

Having reached the spacious ante-chamber to which the staircase led, the officer demanded of a gorgeously attired domestic the name of the aide-de-camp in waiting.

“General the Marquis Delaroche,” was the reply, which went to the heart of Paul with the sharpness of a dagger.

The officer led him into an adjoining apartment, in which several military men, in various uniforms, were lounging before a stove where a large fire was burning. The moment the gendarme made his appearance with his prisoner, one of the group stept hastily forward, and speedily confronted Paul Laudry, who too well recog­nized in the Marquis Delaroche his old school-fellow Henri—his wife’s brother—and his own mortal enemy.

“His Majesty waits your arrival,” said the Marquis, with a malignant smile. “Follow me;” and he led the gendarme and Laudry through a suite of magnificently furnished apartments, crowded with officers, pages, and nobles in waiting. At length he knocked gently at a door which communicated with the reception-room; and in another moment, the culprit was ushered into the presence of Napoleon.

Paul had made up his mind not to quail before the Emperor; but, when he was confronted by that great man, who, calm and unmoved, stood with his arms folded across his breast, gazing upon the pri­soner, he felt an indescribable sensation of awe creep over him, and —almost involuntarily—he sank upon his knees at the feet of the imperial hero.

“Rise—rise, Laudry,” exclaimed Napoleon. “We were once equals—we were school fellows—we were friends. Rise!”

“Mayit please your Majesty,” said the Marquis Delaroche, “this individual—”

“Silence!” ejaculated Napoleon, in a tone, and with an air be­neath which Henri cowered almost to the floor. “And you, Paul Laudry, stand forward. When we last met, we gave each other a certain rendezvous: on that occasion we were at St. Cloud—twenty years ago! Our appointment has been kept.”

Both the Marquis Delaroche and Paul Laudry uttered a cry of astonishment, as they called to mind the freak of their boyish days.

“Yes,” said the Emperor, “we have been faithful to our appoint­ment. But how do we meet? I as the ruler of the destinies of France—you, Paul Laudry, as a traitor, a conspirator against your sovereign—and you, Henri Delaroche, as the accuser of your ancient friend!”

“I did my duty to my master,” observed the Marquis, in a sup­pliant tone of voice.

“True—true,” returned the Emperor: “but I must punish thee for thy hatred to thy former friend—thy brother-in-law. Be thou, then, the bearer of this document to his afflicted wife. Haste—and acquit thyself well of thy mission.”

The Emperor paused for a moment; and, when Henri had de­parted with the sealed packet which Napoleon had placed in his hands, his Majesty again addressed the astonished Laudry.

“And you, headstrong fanatic in a bad and ruined cause, know that the Emperor of the French forgets not ancient friendships in his hope to acquire new ones. Paul Laudry—you are pardoned: and, when in after years you tell the history of your own life, forget not to add that your Appointment was duly kept, and that the recol­lection of a youthful frolic saved your life on this occasion. Officer, release your prisoner: he is free!”

Laudry fell at the feet of the generous monarch, and endeavoured to pour out his gratitude in all the eloquence which the nature of his situation, in reference to Napoleon, was calculated to originate: but his voice was rendered inaudible by deep emotions—the Emperor was himself affected—and the gendarme’s countenance was moist­ened with tears. Napoleon waved his hand as a token of adieu; and retired into an adjoining apartment, as Laudry and the officer hurried out of the reception-room.

On his return to his own abode, Paul found his wife and children weeping for joy in each other’s arms. A document lay open upon the table—upon the letter was a large seal—and on the seal a sovereign crown. The envelope contained two papers—the one affirming Laudry’s pardon; and the other restoring him to the regi­ment he many years previously had served in, with the rank of Major. A considerable pension was moreover settled upon his wife and children; and long had the grateful Paul and the now happy Eugenie reason to bless the Appointment which was so faithfully kept.

[1] Original citation: G.W.M. Reynolds, ‘The Appointment: A Tale’, The Isis, January 1839, pp. 68–81.

[2] “Ode to the Column in the Place Vandame,” in the Chants du Crepuscule.