The Companions of Jehu
1. A Table D'hôte
The 9th of October, 1799, on a beautiful day of that meridional autumn which
ripens the oranges of Hyères and the grapes of Saint-Peray, at the two
extremities of Provence, a travelling chaise, drawn by three post horses, galloped
at full speed over the bridge that crosses the Durance, between Cavailhon and
Château-Renard, on its way to Avignon, the ancient papal city which a decree,
issued the 25th of May, 1791, eight years earlier, had reunited to France--a
reunion confirmed by the treaty signed in 1797, at Tolentino, between General
Bonaparte and Pope Pius VI.
The carriage entered by the gate of Aix and, without slackening speed, traversed
the entire length of the town, with its narrow, winding streets, built to ward off
both wind and sun, and halted at fifty paces from the Porte d'Oulle, at the Hotel
du Palais-Egalité, which they were again beginning to quietly rename the Hotel
du Palais-Royal, a name which it bore formerly and still bears to-day.
These few insignificant words about the name of the inn, before which halted the
post-chaise which we had in view, indicate sufficiently well the state of France
under the government of the Thermidorian reaction, called the Directory.
After the revolutionary struggle which had occurred between the 14th of July,
1789, and the 9th Thermidor, 1794; after the days of the 5th and 6th of October,
of the 21st of June, of the 10th of August, of the 2d and 3d of September, of the
21st of May, of the 29th Thermidor and the 1st Prairial; after seeing fall the heads
of the King and his judges, and the Queen and her accusers, of the Girondins
and the Cordeliers, the Moderates and the Jacobins, France experienced that
most frightful and most nauseous of all lassitudes, the lassitude of blood!
She had therefore returned, if not to a need of monarchy, at least to a desire for a
stable government, in which she might place her confidence, upon which she
might lean, which would act for her, and which would permit her some repose
while it acted.
In the stead of this vaguely desired government, the country obtained the feeble
and irresolute Directory, composed for the moment of the voluptuous Barrès, the
intriguing Sièyes, the brave Moulins, the insignificant Roger Ducos, and the
honest but somewhat too ingenuous Gohier. The result was a mediocre dignity
before the world at large and a very questionable tranquillity at home.
It is true that at the moment of which we write our armies, so glorious during
those epic campaigns of 1796 and 1797, thrown back for a time upon France by
the incapacity of Scherer at Verona and Cassano, and by the defeat and death of
Joubert at Novi, were beginning to resume the offensive. Moreau had defeated
Souvarow at Bassignano; Brune had defeated the Duke of York and General
Hermann at Bergen; Masséna had annihilated the Austro-Russians at Zurich;
Korsakof had escaped only with the greatest difficulty; the Austrian, Hotz, with
three other generals, were killed, and five made prisoners. Masséna saved
France at Zurich, as Villars, ninety years earlier, had saved it at Denain.
But in the interior, matters were not in so promising a state, and the government
of the Directory was, it must be confessed, much embarrassed between the war