Most of the servants were bribed by the Jacobins to spy upon their masters, and knew much better than they what was going on in France. Many of [111] them used to go and meet the courrier who told them much more than was contained in the letters he brought. After having lived two years and a half in Italy, chiefly in Rome, Mme. Le Brun began to think of returning to France. When the Empress returned from Czarskoiesolo she desired Mme. Le Brun to paint the portraits of the Grand Duchesses Alexandrine and Helena, daughters of the Tsarevitch, then fourteen and thirteen years old, and afterwards that of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, wife of Alexander, eldest grandson of the Empress, the young girl she had [134] seen on her first visit to Czarskoiesolo, by whom she was completely fascinated.

On hearing that they were, he remarked

They were kept a fortnight at the Hague by the storms and shipwrecks going on, but early in January they decided to embark for England. The cold was fearful, and, wrapped in fur cloaks, fur boots and caps, they set off to drive seven or eight leagues perched on the top of open baggage waggons, seated upon the boxes, so unsafe that the Baron de Breteuil, who was with them, fell off and put his wrist out. They hurried away just in time, crossed the Mont Cenis, which was covered with snow, and at the foot of which they were met by their nephew, the Comte dArtois. The King of Sardinia, husband of their niece, [40] the eldest sister of Louis XVI. had sent four hundred soldiers to clear away the snow, and escorted by the Comte dArtois they arrived safely at Turin where all the noblesse were assembled to receive them at the entrance of the royal palace. They arrived at Rome in April.

Si ses sujets sont ses enfants, During her exile in England, she was in the habit of visiting and helping the French who were poor or sick, and one day being in a hospital, and seeing a French soldier evidently very ill, she spoke to him with compassion and offered him money, which he refused, with a strange exclamation, apparently of horror.

As time went on and affairs became more and more menacing, Mme. Le Brun began to consider the advisability of leaving the country, and placing herself and her child out of the reach of the dangers and calamities evidently not far distant.

They took a little house in a meadow looking down on the lake, and not even the authorities of the place knew who they were.

The latter part of the sojourn of Mme. de Genlis in England was overshadowed by anxieties, annoyances, and fears.

The robbers, who were both executed, were father and son. Their plan was for the cripple to beg for money to be dropped into his hat, then with his stump he pulled down a heavy weight hung in the tree above him which stunned the victim, who was then finished by the other. The farmer had been too quick for them. In the hollow or small cellar under the arch where he slept were found gold, ornaments, hair cut off the nuns, which was always sold for the profit of the Order of the Saint-Rosaire, daggers, and knives. How he got them all was never discovered.

The Empress was not in the least like what she had imagined. Short and stout, though exceedingly dignified, her white hair was raised high above her forehead, her face, still handsome, expressed the power and genius which characterised her commanding personality, her eyes and her voice were gentle, and her hands extremely beautiful. She had taken off one of her gloves, expecting the usual [126] salute, but Lisette had forgotten all about it till afterwards when the Ambassador asked, to her dismay, if she had remembered to kiss the hand of the Empress.

The Duc dAyen, though always retaining a deep affection for his wife, spent a great part of his time away from her. He was one of the most conspicuous and brilliant figures at the court, and besides entering eagerly into all its pleasures, dissipation, and extravagance, was a member of the Academy of Science; and although by no means an atheist or an enemy of religion, associated constantly with the philosophers, whose ideas [164] and opinions he, like many of the French nobles in the years preceding the Revolution, had partly adopted, little imagining the terrible consequences that would result from them.