From the upper windows we could see each discharge from the Bastille - I mean the smoke rising - and also the flames and smoke from the Boulevard la Chapelle. We were four ladies, and only Fleeming by way of a man, and difficulty enough we had to keep him from joining the National Guards - his pride and spirit were both fired. You cannot picture to yourself the multitudes of soldiers, guards, and armed men of all sorts we watched - not close to the window, however, for such havoc had been made among them by the firing from the windows, that as the battalions marched by, they cried, "Fermez vos fenetres!" and it was very painful to watch their looks of anxiety and suspicion as they marched by.'

'The Revolution,' writes Fleeming to Frank Scott, 'was quite delightful: getting popped at and run at by horses, and giving sous for the wounded into little boxes guarded by the raggedest, picturesquest, delightfullest, sentinels; but the insurrection! ugh, I shudder to think at [SIC] it.' He found it 'not a bit of fun sitting boxed up in the house four days almost. . . I was the only GENTLEMAN to four ladies, and didn't they keep me in order! I did not dare to show my face at a window, for fear of catching a stray ball or being forced to enter the National Guard; [for] they would have it I was a man full-grown, French, and every way fit to fight. And my mamma was as bad as any of them; she that told me I was a coward last time if I stayed in the house a quarter of an hour! But I drew, examined the pistols, of which I found lots with caps, powder, and ball, while sometimes murderous intentions of killing a dozen insurgents and dying violently overpowered by numbers. . . . .' We may drop this sentence here: under the conduct of its boyish writer, it was to reach no legitimate end.

Four days of such a discipline had cured the family of Paris; the same year Fleeming was to write, in answer apparently to a question of Frank Scott's, 'I could find no national game in France but revolutions'; and the witticism was justified in their experience. On the first possible day, they applied for passports, and were advised to take the road to Geneva. It appears it was scarce safe to leave Paris for England. Charles Reade, with keen dramatic gusto, had just smuggled himself out of that city in the bottom of a cab. English gold had been found on the insurgents, the name of England was in evil odour; and it was thus - for strategic reasons, so to speak - that Fleeming found himself on the way to that Italy where he was to complete his education, and for which he cherished to the end a special kindness.

It was in Genoa they settled; partly for the sake of the captain, who might there find naval comrades; partly because of the Ruffinis, who had been friends of Mrs. Jenkin in their time of exile and were now considerable men at home; partly, in fine, with hopes that Fleeming might attend the University; in preparation for which he was put at once to school. It was the year of Novara; Mazzini was in Rome; the dry bones of Italy were moving; and for people of alert and liberal sympathies the time was inspiriting. What with exiles turned Ministers of State, universities thrown open to Protestants, Fleeming himself the first Protestant student in Genoa, and thus, as his mother writes, 'a living instance of the progress of liberal ideas' - it was little wonder if the enthusiastic young woman and the clever boy were heart and soul upon the side of Italy. It should not be forgotten that they were both on their first visit to that country; the mother still child enough 'to be delighted when she saw real monks'; and both mother and son thrilling with the first sight of snowy Alps, the blue Mediterranean, and the crowded port and the palaces of Genoa. Nor was their zeal without knowledge. Ruffini, deputy for Genoa and soon to be head of the University, was at their side; and by means of him the family appear to have had access to much Italian society. To the end, Fleeming professed his admiration of the Piedmontese and his unalterable confidence in the future of Italy under their conduct; for Victor Emanuel, Cavour, the first La Marmora and Garibaldi, he had varying degrees of sympathy and praise: perhaps highest for the King, whose good sense and temper filled him with respect - perhaps least for Garibaldi, whom he loved but yet mistrusted.

Memoir of Fleeming Jenkin Page 17

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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