The Companions of Jehu by Alexandre Dumas, Pere - HTML preview
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.
20. The Guests Of General Bonaparte
Josephine, in spite of her thirty-four years, or possibly because of them (that enchanting age when woman hovers between her passing youth and her corning age), Josephine, always beautiful, more graceful than ever, was still the charming woman we all know. An imprudent remark of Junot's, at the time of her husband's return, had produced a slight coolness between them. But three days had sufficed to restore to the enchantress her full power over the victor of Rivoli and the Pyramids.
She was doing the honors of her salon, when Roland entered the room. Always incapable, like the true Creole she was, of controlling her emotions, she gave a cry of joy, and held out her hand to him. She knew that Roland was devoted to her husband; she knew his reckless bravery, knew that if the young man had twenty lives he would willingly have given them all for Bonaparte. Roland eagerly took the hand she offered him, and kissed it respectfully. Josephine had known Roland's mother in Martinique; and she never failed, whenever she saw Roland, to speak to him of his maternal grandfather, M. de la Clémencière, in whose magnificent garden as a child she was wont to gather those wonderful fruits which are unknown in our colder climates.
A subject of conversation was therefore ready at hand. She inquired tenderly after Madame de Montrevel's health, and that of her daughter and little Edouard. Then, the information given, she said: "My dear Roland, I must now pay attention to my other guests; but try to remain after the other guests, or else let me see you alone to-morrow. I want to talk to you about him" (she glanced at Bonaparte) "and have a thousand things to tell you." Then, pressing the young man's hand with a sigh, she added, "No matter what happens, you will never leave him, will you?"
"What do you mean?" asked Roland, amazed.
"I know what I mean," said Josephine, "and when you have talked ten minutes with Bonaparte you will, I am sure, understand me. In the meantime watch, and listen, and keep silence."
Roland bowed and drew aside, resolved, as Josephine had advised, to play the part of observer.
But what was there to observe? Three principal groups occupied the salon. The first, gathered around Madame Bonaparte, the only woman present, was more a flux and reflux than a group. The second, surrounding Talma, was composed of Arnault, Parseval-Grandmaison, Monge, Berthollet, and two or three other members of the Institute. The third, which Bonaparte had just joined, counted in its circle Talleyrand, Barras, Lucien, Admiral Bruix, [Footnote: AUTHOR'S NOTE.--Not to be confounded with Rear-Admiral de Brueys, who was killed at Aboukir, August 1, 1798. Admiral Bruix, the negotiator with Talleyrand of the 18th Brumaire, did not die until 1805.] Roederer, Regnaud de Saint-Jean-d'Angely, Fouché, Réal, and two or three generals, among whom was Lefebvre. In the first group they talked of fashions, music, the theatre; in the second, literature, science, dramatic art; in the third, they talked of everything except that which was uppermost in their minds. Doubtless this reserve was not in keeping with Bonaparte's own feeling at the moment; for after sharing in this commonplace conversation for a short time, he took the former bishop of Autun by the arm and led him into the embrasure of the window.
"Well?" he asked.
Talleyrand looked at Bonaparte with that air which belonged to no one but him. "What did I tell you of Sièyes, general?"
"You told me to secure the support of those who regarded the friends of the Republic as Jacobins, and to rely, upon it that Sièyes was at their head." "I was not mistaken."
"Then he will yield?"
"Better, he has yielded."
"The man who wanted to shoot me at Fréjus for having landed without being quarantined!"
"Oh, no; not for that."
"But what then?"
"For not having looked at him or spoken to him at Gohier's dinner." "I must confess that I did it on purpose. I cannot endure that unfrocked monk." Bonaparte perceived, too late, that the speech he had just made was like the sword of the archangel, double-edged; if Sièyes was unfrocked, Talleyrand was unmitred. He cast a rapid glance at his companion's face; the ex-bishop of Autun was smiling his sweetest smile.
"Then I can count upon him?"
"I will answer for him."
"And Cambacérès and Lebrun, have you seen them?"
"I took Sièyes in hand as the most recalcitrant. Bruix saw the other two." The admiral, from the midst of the group, had never taken his eyes off of the general and the diplomatist. He suspected that their conversation had a special importance. Bonaparte made him a sign to join them. A less able man would have done so at once, but Bruix avoided such a mistake. He walked about the room with affected indifference, and then, as if he had just perceived Talleyrand and Bonaparte talking together, he went up to them.
"Bruix is a very able man!" said Bonaparte, who judged men as much by little as by great things.
"And above all very cautious, general!" said Talleyrand.
"Yes. We will need a corkscrew to pull anything out of him."
"Oh, no; on the contrary, now that he has joined us, he, will broach the question frankly."
And, indeed, no sooner had Bruix joined them than he began in words as clear as they were concise: "I have seen them; they waver!"
"They waver! Cambacérès and Lebrun waver? Lebrun I can understand--a sort of man of letters, a moderate, a Puritan; but Cambacérès--"
"But it is so."
"But didn't you tell them that I intended to make them each a consul?" "I didn't get as far as that," replied Bruix, laughing.
"And why not?" inquired Bonaparte.
"Because this is the first word you have told me about your intentions, Citizen General."
"True," said Bonaparte, biting his lips.
"Am I to repair the omission?" asked Bruix.
"No, no," exclaimed Bonaparte hastily; "they might think I needed them. I won't have any quibbling. They must decide to-day without any other conditions than those you have offered them; to-morrow it will be too late. I feel strong enough to stand alone; and I now have Sièyes and Barras."
"Barras?" repeated the two negotiators astonished.
"Yes, Barras, who treated me like a little corporal, and wouldn't send me back to Italy, because, he said, I had made my fortune there, and it was useless to return. Well, Barras--"
"Nothing." Then, changing his mind, "Faith! I may as well tell you. Do you know what Barras said at dinner yesterday before me? That it was impossible to go on any longer with the Constitution of the year III. He admitted the necessity of a dictatorship; said he had decided to abandon the reins of government, and retire; adding that he himself was looked upon as worn-out, and that the Republic needed new men. Now, guess to whom he thinks of transferring his power. I give it you, as Madame de Sévigné says, in a hundred, thousand, ten thousand. No other than General Hedouville, a worthy man, but I have only to look him in the face to make him lower his eyes. My glance must have been blasting! As the result, Barras came to my bedside at eight o'clock, to excuse himself as best he could for the nonsense he talked the night before, and admitted that I alone could save the Republic, and placed himself at my disposal, to do what I wished, assume any rôle I might assign him, begging me to promise that if I had any plan in my head I would count on him--yes, on him; and he would be true to the crack of doom."
"And yet," said Talleyrand, unable to resist a play upon words, "doom is not a word with which to conjure liberty."
Bonaparte glanced at the ex-bishop.
"Yes, I know that Barras is your friend, the friend of Fouché and Réal; but he is not mine, and I shall prove it to him. Go back to Lebrun and Cambacérès, Bruix, and let them make their own bargain." Then, looking at his watch and frowning, he added: "It seems to me that Moreau keeps us waiting."
So saying, he turned to the group which surrounded Talma. The two diplomatists watched him. Then Admiral Bruix asked in a low voice: "What do you say, my dear Maurice, to such sentiments toward the man who picked him out, a mere lieutenant, at the siege of Toulon, who trusted him to defend the Convention on the 13th Vendémiaire, and who named him, when only twenty-six, General-inChief of the Army in Italy?"
"I say, my dear admiral," replied M. de Talleyrand, with his pallid mocking smile, "that some services are so great that ingratitude alone can repay them." At that moment the door opened and General Moreau was announced. At this announcement, which was more than a piece of news--it was a surprise to most of those present--every eye was turned toward the door. Moreau appeared. At this period three men were in the eyes of France. Moreau was one of these three men. The two others were Bonaparte and Pichegru. Each had become a sort of symbol. Since the 18th Fructidor, Pichegru had become the symbol of monarchy; Moreau, since he had been christened Fabius, was the symbol of the Republic; Bonaparte, symbol of war, dominated them both by the adventurous aspect of his genius.
Moreau was at that time in the full strength of his age; we would say the full strength of his genius, if decision were not one of the characteristics of genius. But no one was ever more undecided than the famous cunctator. He was thirtysix years old, tall, with a sweet, calm, firm countenance, and must have resembled Xenophon.
Bonaparte had never seen him, nor had he, on his side, ever seen Bonaparte. While the one was battling on the Adige and the Mincio, the other fought beside the Danube and the Rhine. Bonaparte came forward to greet him, saying: "You are welcome, general!"
"General," replied Moreau, smiling courteously, while all present made a circle around them to see how this new Cæsar would meet the new Pompey, "you come from Egypt, victorious, while I come, defeated, from Italy."
"A defeat which was not yours, and for which you are not responsible, general. It was Joubert's fault. If he had rejoined the Army of Italy as soon as he had been made commander-in-chief, it is more than probable that the Russians and Austrians, with the troops they then had, could not have resisted him. But he remained in Paris for his honeymoon! Poor Joubert paid with his life for that fatal month which gave the enemy time to gather its reinforcements. The surrender of Mantua gave them fifteen thousand men on the eve of the battle. It was impossible that our poor army should not have been overwhelmed by such united forces."
"Alas! yes," said Moreau; "it is always the greater number which defeats the smaller."
"A great truth, general," exclaimed Bonaparte; "an indisputable truth." "And yet," said Arnault, joining in the conversation, "you yourself, general, have defeated large armies with little ones."
"If you were Marius, instead of the author of 'Marius,' you would not say that, my dear poet. Even when I beat great armies with little ones--listen to this, you young men who obey to-day, and will command to-morrow--it was always the larger number which defeated the lesser."
"I don't understand," said Arnault and Lefebvre together.
But Moreau made a sign with his head to show that he understood. Bonaparte continued: "Follow my theory, for it contains the whole art of war. When with lesser forces I faced a large army, I gathered mine together, with great rapidity, fell like a thunderbolt on a wing of the great army, and overthrew it; then I profited by the disorder into which this manoeuvre never failed to throw the enemy to attack again, always with my whole army, on the other side. I beat them, in this way, in detail; and the victory which resulted was always, as you see, the triumph of the many over the few."
As the able general concluded his definition of his own genius, the door opened and the servant announced that dinner was served.
"General," said Bonaparte, leading Moreau to Josephine, "take in my wife. Gentlemen, follow them."
On this invitation all present moved from the salon to the dining-room. After dinner, on pretence of showing him a magnificent sabre he had brought from Egypt, Bonaparte took Moreau into his study. There the two rivals remained closeted more than an hour. What passed between them? What compact was signed? What promises were made? No one has ever known. Only, when Bonaparte returned to the salon alone, and Lucien asked him: "Well, what of Moreau?" he answered: "Just as I foresaw; he prefers military power to political power. I have promised him the command of an army." Bonaparte smiled as he pronounced these words; then added, "In the meantime--"
"In the meantime?" questioned Lucien.
"He will have that of the Luxembourg. I am not sorry to make him the jailer of the Directors, before I make him the conqueror of the Austrians."
The next day the following appeared in the "Moniteur":
PARIS, 17th Brumaire. Bonaparte has presented Moreau with a magnificent Damascus sword set with precious stones which he brought from Egypt, the value of which is estimated at twelve thousand francs.
21. The Schedule Of The Directory
We have said that Moreau, furnished no doubt with instructions, left the little house in the Rue de la Victoire, while Bonaparte returned alone to the salon. Everything furnished an object of comment in such a company as was there assembled; the absence of Moreau, the return of Bonaparte unaccompanied, and the visible good humor which animated his countenance, were all remarked upon.
The eyes which fastened upon him most ardently were those of Josephine and Roland. Moreau for Bonaparte added twenty chances to the success of the plot; Moreau against Bonaparte robbed him of fifty. Josephine's eyes were so supplicating that, on leaving Lucien, Bonaparte pushed his brother toward his wife. Lucien understood, and approached Josephine, saying: "All is well." "Moreau?"
"I thought he was a Republican."
"He has been made to see that we are acting for the good of the Republic." "I should have thought him ambitious," said Roland.
Lucien started and looked at the young man.
"You are right," said he.
"Then," remarked Josephine, "if he is ambitious he will not let Bonaparte seize the power."
"Because he will want it himself."
"Yes; but he will wait till it comes to him ready-made, inasmuch as he doesn't know how to create it, and is afraid to seize it."
During this time Bonaparte had joined the group which had formed around Talma after dinner, as well as before. Remarkable men are always the centre of attraction.
"What are you saying, Talma?" demanded Bonaparte. "It seems to me they are listening to you very attentively."
"Yes, but my reign is over," replied the artist.
"I do as citizen Barras has done; I abdicate?"
"So citizen Barras has abdicated?"
"So rumor says."
"Is it known who will take his place?"
"It is surmised."
"Is it one of your friends, Talma?"
"Time was," said Talma, bowing, "when he did me the honor to say I was his." "Well, in that case, Talma, I shall ask for your influence."
"Granted," said Talma, laughing; "it only remains to ask how it can serve you." "Get me sent back to Italy; Barras would not let me go."
"The deuce!" said Talma; "don't you know the song, general, 'We won't go back to the woods when the laurels are clipped'?"
"Oh! Roscius, Roscius!" said Bonaparte, smiling, "have you grown a flatterer during my absence?"
"Roscius was the friend of Cæsar, general, and when the conqueror returned from Gaul he probably said to him about the same thing I have said to you." Bonaparte laid his band on Talma's shoulder.
"Would he have said the same words after crossing the Rubicon?"
Talma looked Bonaparte straight in the face.
"No," he replied; "he would have said, like the augur, 'Cæsar, beware of the Ides of March!'"
Bonaparte slipped his hand into his breast as if in search of something; finding the dagger of the Companions of Jehu, he grasped it convulsively. Had he a presentiment of the conspiracies of Arena, Saint-Regent, and Cadoudal? Just then the door opened and a servant announced: "General Bernadotte!" "Bernadotte," muttered Bonaparte, involuntarily. "What does he want here?" Since Bonaparte's return, Bernadotte had held aloof from him, refusing all the advances which the general-in-chief and his friends had made him. The fact is, Bernadotte had long since discerned the politician beneath the soldier's greatcoat, the dictator beneath the general, and Bernadotte, for all that he became king in later years, was at that time a very different Republican from Moreau. Moreover, Bernadotte believed he had reason to complain of Bonaparte. His military career had not been less brilliant than that of the young general; his fortunes were destined to run parallel with his to the end, only, more fortunate than that other--Bernadotte was to die on his throne. It is true, he did not conquer that throne; he was called to it.
Son of a lawyer at Pau, Bernadotte, born in 1764--that is to say, five years before Bonaparte--was in the ranks as a private soldier when only eighteen. In 1789 he was only a sergeant-major. But those were the days of rapid promotion. In 1794, Kléber created him brigadier-general on the field of battle, where he had decided the fortunes of the day. Becoming a general of division, he played a brilliant part at Fleurus and Juliers, forced Maestricht to capitulate, took Altdorf, and protected, against an army twice as numerous as his own, the retreat of Joubert. In 1797 the Directory ordered him to take seventeen thousand men to Bonaparte. These seventeen thousand men were his old soldiers, veterans of Kléber, Marceau and Hoche, soldiers of the Sambre-et-Meuse; and yet Bernadotte forgot all rivalry and seconded Bonaparte with all his might, taking part in the passage of the Tagliamento, capturing Gradiska, Trieste, Laybach, Idria, bringing back to the Directory, after the campaign, the flags of the enemy, and accepting, possibly with reluctance, an embassy to Vienna, while Bonaparte secured the command of the army of Egypt.
At Vienna, a riot, excited by the tri-color flag hoisted above the French embassy, for which the ambassador was unable to obtain redress, forced him to demand his passports. On his return to Paris, the Directory appointed him Minister of War. An underhand proceeding of Sièyes, who was offended by Bernadotte's republicanism, induced the latter to send in his resignation. It was accepted, and when Bonaparte landed at Fréjus the late minister had been three months out of office. Since Bonaparte's return, some of Bernadotte's friends had sought to bring about his reinstatement; but Bonaparte had opposed it. The result was a hostility between the two generals, none the less real because not openly avowed.
Bernadotte's appearance in Bonaparte's salon was therefore an event almost as extraordinary as the presence of Moreau. And the entrance of the conqueror of Maestricht caused as many heads to turn as had that of the conqueror of Rastadt. Only, instead of going forward to meet him, as he had Moreau, Bonaparte merely turned round and awaited him.
Bernadotte, from the threshold of the door, cast a rapid glance around the salon. He divided and analyzed the groups, and although he must have perceived Bonaparte in the midst of the principal one, he went up to Josephine, who was reclining on a couch at the corner of the fireplace, like the statue of Agrippina in the Pitti, and, addressing her with chivalric courtesy, inquired for her health; then only did he raise his head as if to look for Bonaparte. At such a time everything was of too much importance for those present not to remark this affectation of courtesy on Bernadotte's part.
Bonaparte, with his rapid, comprehensive intellect, was not the last to notice this; he was seized with impatience, and, instead of awaiting Bernadotte in the midst of the group where he happened to be, he turned abruptly to the embrasure of a window, as if to challenge the ex-minister of war to follow him. Bernadotte bowed graciously to right and left, and controlling his usually mobile face to an expression of perfect calmness, he walked toward Bonaparte, who awaited him as a wrestler awaits his antagonist, the right foot forward and his lips compressed. The two men bowed, but Bonaparte made no movement to extend his hand to Bernadotte, nor did the latter offer to take it.
"Is it you?" asked Bonaparte. "I am glad to see you."
"Thank you, general," replied Bernadotte. "I have come because I wish to give you a few explanations."
"I did not recognize you at first."
"Yet I think, general, that my name was announced by your servant in a voice loud enough to prevent any doubt as to my identity."
"Yes, but he announced General Bernadotte."
"Well, I saw a man in civilian's dress, and though I recognized you, I doubted if it were really you."
For some time past Bernadotte had affected to wear civilian's dress in preference to his uniform.
"You know," said he, laughing, "that I am only half a soldier now. I was retired by citizen Sièyes."
"It seems that it was lucky for me that you were no longer minister of war when I landed at Fréjus."
"You said, so I was told, that had you received the order to arrest me for violating quarantine you would have done so."
"I said it, and I repeat it, general. As a soldier I was always a faithful observer of discipline. As a minister I was a slave to law."
Bonaparte bit his lips. "And will you say, after that, that you have not a personal enmity to me?"
"A personal enmity to you, general?" replied Bernadotte. "Why should I have? We have always gone together, almost in the same stride; I was even made general before you. While my campaigns on the Rhine were less brilliant than yours on the Adige, they were not less profitable for the Republic; and when I had the honor to serve under you, you found in me, I hope, a subordinate devoted, if not to the man, at least to the country which he served. It is true that since your departure, general, I have been more fortunate than you in not having the responsibility of a great army, which, if one may believe Kléber's despatches, you have left in a disastrous position."
"What do you mean? Kléber's last despatches? Has Kléber written?" "Are you ignorant of that, general? Has the Directory not informed you of the complaints of your successor? That would be a great weakness on their part, and I congratulate myself to have come here, not only to correct in your mind what has been said of me, but to tell you what is being said of you."
Bonaparte fixed an eye, darkling as an eagle's, on Bernadotte. "And what are they saying of me?" he asked.
"They say that, as you must come back, you should have brought the army with you."
"Had I a fleet? Are you unaware that De Brueys allowed his to be burned?" "They also say, general, that, being unable to bring back the army, it would have been better for your renown had you remained with it."
"That is what I should have done, monsieur, if events had not recalled me to France."
"What events, general?"
"Pardon me, general; you mean to say Schérer's defeats.
"Yours as well."
"I was not answerable for the generals commanding our armies on the Rhine and in Italy until I was minister of war. If you will enumerate the victories and defeats since that time you will see on which side the scale turns."
"You certainly do not intend to tell me that matters are in a good condition?" "No, but I do say that they are not in so desperate state as you affect to believe." "As I affect!--Truly, general, to hear you one would think I had some interest in lowering France in the eyes of foreigners.
"I don't say that; I say that I wish to settle the balance of our victories and defeats for the last three months; and as I came for that, and am now in your house, and in the position of an accused person--"
"Or an accuser."
"As the accused, in the first instance--I begin."
"And I listen," said Bonaparte, visibly on thorns.
"My ministry dates from the 30th Prairial, the 8th of June if you prefer; we will not quarrel over words."
"Which means that we shall quarrel about things."
Bernadotte continued without replying.
"I became minister, as I said, the 8th of June; that is, a short time after the siege of Saint-Jean-d'Acre was raised."
Bonaparte bit his lips. "I did not raise the siege until after I had ruined the fortifications," he replied.
"That is not what Kléber wrote; but that does not concern me." Then he added, smiling: "It happened while Clark was minister."
There was a moment's silence, during which Bonaparte endeavored to make Bernadotte lower his eyes. Not succeeding, he said: "Go on."
Bernadotte bowed and continued: "Perhaps no minister of war--and the archives of the ministry are there for reference--ever received the portfolio under more critical circumstances: civil war within, a foreign enemy at our doors, discouragement rife among our veteran armies, absolute destitution of means to equip new ones. That was what I had to face on the 8th of June, when I entered upon my duties. An active correspondence, dating from the 8th of June, between the civil and military authorities, revived their courage and their hopes. My addresses to the armies--this may have been a mistake--were those, not of a minister to his soldiers, but of a comrade among comrades, just as my addresses to the administrators were those of a citizen to his fellow-citizens. I appealed to the courage of the army, and the heart of the French people; I obtained all that I had asked. The National Guard reorganized with renewed zeal; legions were formed upon the Rhine, on the Moselle. Battalions of veterans took the place of old regiments to reinforce the troops that were guarding our frontiers; to-day our cavalry is recruited by a remount of forty thousand horses, and one hundred thousand conscripts, armed and equipped, have received with cries of 'Vive la Republique!' the flags under which they will fight and conquer--"
"But," interrupted Bonaparte bitterly, "this is an apology you are making for yourself."
"Be it so. I will divide my discourse into two parts. The first will be a contestable apology; the second an array of incontestable facts. I will set aside the apology and proceed to facts. June 17 and 18, the battle of the Trebbia. Macdonald wished to fight without Moreau; he crossed the Trebbia, attacked the enemy, was defeated and retreated to Modena. June 20, battle of Tortona; Moreau defeated the Austrian Bellegarde. July 22, surrender of the citadel of Alexandria to the Austro-Russians. So far the scale turns to defeat. July 30, surrender of Mantua, another check. August 15, battle of Novi; this time it was more than a check, it was a defeat. Take note of it, general, for it is the last. At the very moment we were fighting at Novi, Masséna was maintaining his position at Zug and Lucerne, and strengthening himself on the Aar and on the Rhine; while Lecourbe, on August 14 and 15, took the Saint-Gothard. August 19, battle of Bergen; Brune defeated the Anglo-Russian army, forty thousand strong, and captured the Russian general, Hermann. On the 25th, 26th and 27th of the same month, the battles of Zurich, where Masséna defeated the Austro-Russians under Korsakoff. Hotze and three other generals are taken prisoners. The enemy lost twelve thousand men, a hundred cannon, and all its baggage; the Austrians, separated from the Russians, could not rejoin them until after they were driven beyond Lake Constance. That series of victories stopped the progress the enemy had been making since the beginning of the campaign; from the time Zurich was retaken, France was secure from invasion. August 30, Molitor defeated the Austrian generals, Jellachich and Luiken, and drove them back into the Grisons. September 1, Molitor attacked and defeated General Rosenberg in the Mutterthal. On the 2d, Molitor forced Souvaroff to evacuate Glarus, to abandon his wounded, his cannon, and sixteen hundred prisoners. The 6th, General Brune again defeated the Anglo-Russians, under the command of the Duke of York. On the 7th, General Gazan took possession of Constance. On the 8th you landed at Fréjus.--Well, general," continued Bernadotte, "as France will probably pass into your hands, it is well that you should know the state in which you find her, and in place of receipt, our possessions bear witness to what we are giving you. What we are now doing, general, is history, and it is important that those who may some day have an interest in falsifying history shall find in their path the denial of Bernadotte."
"Is that said for my benefit, general?"
"I say that for flatterers. You have pretended, it is said, that you returned to France because our armies were destroyed, because France was threatened, the Republic at bay. You may have left Egypt with that fear; but once in France, all such fears must have given way to a totally different belief."
"I ask no better than to believe as you do," replied Bonaparte, with sovereign dignity; "and the more grand and powerful you prove France to be, the more grateful am I to those who have secured her grandeur and her power." "Oh, the result is plain, general! Three armies defeated; the Russians exterminated, the Austrians defeated and forced to fly, twenty thousand prisoners, a hundred pieces of cannon, fifteen flags, all the baggage of the enemy in our possession, nine generals taken or killed, Switzerland free, our frontiers safe, the Rhine our limit--so much for Masséna's contingent and the situation of Helvetia. The Anglo-Russian army twice defeated, utterly discouraged, abandoning its artillery, baggage, munitions of war and commissariat, even to the women and children who came with the British; eight thousand French prisoners; effective men, returned to France; Holland completely evacuated--so much for Brune's contingent and the situation in Holland. The rearguard of General Klénau forced to lay down its arms at Villanova; a thousand prisoners and three pieces of cannon fallen into our hands, and the Austrians driven back beyond Bormida; in all, counting the combats at la Stura and Pignerol, four thousand prisoners, sixteen cannon, Mondovi, and the occupation of the whole region between la Stura and Tanaro--so much for Championnet's contingent and the situation in Italy. Two hundred thousand men under arms, forty thousand mounted cavalry; that is my contingent, mine, and the situation in France."
"But," asked Bonaparte satirically, "if you have, as you say, two hundred thousand soldiers under arms, why do you want me to bring back the fifteen or twenty thousand men I have in Egypt, who are useful there as colonizers?" "If I ask you for them, general, it is not for any need we may have of them, but in the fear of some disaster over taking them."
"What disaster do you expect to befall them, commanded by Kléber?" "Kléber may be killed, general; and who is there behind Kléber? Menou. Kléber and your twenty thousand men are doomed, general!"
"Yes, the Sultan will send troops; he controls by land. The English will send their fleet; they control by sea. We, who have neither land nor sea, will be compelled to take part from here in the evacuation of Egypt and the capitulation of our army. "You take a gloomy view of things, general!"
"The future will show which of us two have seen things as they are." "What would you have done in my place?"
"I don't know. But, even had I been forced to bring them back by way of Constantinople, I should never have abandoned those whom France had intrusted to me. Xenophon, on the banks of the Tigris, was in a much more desperate situation than you on the banks of the Nile. He brought his ten thousand back to Ionia, and they were not the children of Athens, not his fellow citizens; they were mercenaries!"
From the instant Bernadotte uttered the word Constantinople, Bonaparte listened no longer; the name seemed to rouse a new train of ideas in his mind, which he followed in solitary thought. He laid his hand on the arm of the astonished Bernadotte, and, with eyes fixed on space, like a man who pursues through space the phantom of a vanished project, he said: "Yes, yes! I thought of it. That is why I persisted in taking that hovel, Saint-Jean-d'Acre. Here you only thought it obstinacy, a useless waste of men sacrificed to the self-love of a mediocre general who feared that he might be blamed for a defeat. What should I have cared for the raising of the siege of Saint-Jean-d'Acre, if Saint-Jean-d'Acre had not been the barrier in the way of the grandest project ever conceived. Cities! Why, good God! I could take as many as ever did Alexander or Cæsar, but it was Saint-Jean-d'Acre that had to be taken! If I had taken Saint-Jean-d'Acre, do you know what I should have done?"
And he fixed his burning eyes upon Bernadotte, who, this time, lowered his under the flame of this genius.
"What I should have done," repeated Bonaparte, and, like Ajax, he seemed to threaten Heaven with his clinched fist; "if I had taken Saint-Jean-d'Acre, I should have found the treasures of the pasha in the city and three thousand stands of arms. With that I should have raised and armed all Syria, so maddened by the ferocity of Djezzar that each time I attacked him the population prayed to God for his overthrow. I should have marched upon Damascus and Aleppo; I should have swelled my army with the malcontents. Advancing into the country, I should, step by step, have proclaimed the abolition of slavery, and the annihilation of the tyrannical government of the pashas. I should have overthrown the Turkish empire, and founded a great empire at Constantinople, which would have fixed my place in history higher than Constantine and Mohammed II. Perhaps I should have returned to Paris by way of Adrianople and Vienna, after annihilating the house of Austria. Well, my dear general, that is the project which that little hovel of a Saint-Jean-d'Acre rendered abortive!"
And he so far forgot to whom he was speaking, as he followed the shadows of his vanished dream, that he called Bernadotte "my dear general." The latter, almost appalled by the magnitude of the project which Bonaparte had unfolded to him, made a step backward.
"Yes," said Bernadotte, "I perceive what you want, for you have just betrayed yourself. Orient or Occident, a throne! A throne? So be it; why not? Count upon me to help you conquer it, but elsewhere than in France. I am a Republican, and I will die a Republican."
Bonaparte shook his head as if to disperse the thoughts which held him in the clouds.
"I, too, am a Republican," said he, "but see what has come of your Republic!" "What matter!" cried Bernadotte. "It is not to a word or a form that I am faithful, but to the principle. Let the Directors but yield me the power, and I would know how to defend the Republic against her internal enemies, even as I defended her from her foreign enemies."
As he said these words, Bernadotte raised his eyes, and his glance encountered that of Bonaparte. Two naked blades clashing together never sent forth lightning more vivid, more terrible.
Josephine had watched the two men for some time past with anxious attention. She saw the dual glance teeming with reciprocal menace. She rose hastily and went to Bernadotte.
"General," said she.
"You are intimate with Gohier, are you not?" she continued.
"He is one of my best friends, madame," said Bernadotte.
"Well, we dine with him the day after to-morrow, the 18th Brumaire; dine there yourself and bring Madame Bernadotte. I should be so glad to know her better." "Madame," said Bernadotte, "in the days of the Greeks you would have been one of the three graces; in the Middle Ages you would have been a fairy; to-day you are the most adorable woman I know."
And making three steps backward, and bowing, he contrived to retire politely without including Bonaparte in his bow. Josephine followed him with her eyes until he had left the room. Then, turning to her husband, she said: "Well, it seems that it was not as successful with Bernadotte as with Moreau, was it?" "Bold, adventurous, disinterested, sincere republican, inaccessible to seduction, he is a human obstacle. We must make our way around him, since we cannot overthrow him."
And leaving the salon without taking leave of any one, he went to his study, whither Roland and Bourrienne followed. They had hardly been there a quarter of an hour when the handle of the lock turned softly, the door opened, and Lucien appeared.
22. The Outline Of A Decree
Lucien was evidently expected. Bonaparte had not mentioned his name once since entering the study; but in spite of this silence he had turned his head three or four times with increasing impatience toward the door, and when the young man appeared an exclamation of contentment escaped his lips.
Lucien, the general's youngest brother, was born in 1775, making him now barely twenty-five years old. Since 1797, that is, at the age of twenty-two and a half, he had been a member of the Five Hundred, who, to honor Bonaparte, had made him their president. With the projects he had conceived nothing could have been more fortunate for Bonaparte.
Frank and loyal, republican to the core, Lucien believed that, in seconding his brother's plans, he was serving the Republic better than the future First Consul. In his eyes, no one was better fitted to save it a second time than he who had saved it the first. It was with these sentiments in his heart that he now came to confer with his brother.
"Here you are," said Bonaparte. "I have been waiting for you impatiently." "So I suspected. But I was obliged to wait until I could leave without being noticed."
"Did you manage it?"
"Yes; Talma was relating a story about Marat and Dumouriez. Interesting as it was, I deprived myself of the pleasure, and here I am."
"I have just heard a carriage driving away; the person who got in it couldn't have seen you coming up my private stairs, could he?"
"The person who drove off was myself, the carriage was mine. If that is not seen every one will think I have left."
Bonaparte breathed freer.
"Well," said he, "let us hear how you have spent your day."
"Oh! I haven't wasted my time, you may be sure."
"Are we to have a decree or the Council?"
"We drew it up to-day, and I have brought it to you--the rough draft at least--so that you can see if you want anything added or changed."
"Let me see it," cried Bonaparte. Taking the paper hastily from Lucien's hand, he read:
Art. I. The legislative body is transferred to the commune of Saint-Cloud; the two branches of the Council will hold their sessions in the two wings of the palace. "That's the important article," said Lucien. "I had it placed first, so that it might strike the people at once."
"Yes, yes," exclaimed Bonaparte, and he continued:
Art. II. They will assemble there to-morrow, the 20th Brumaire--
"No, no," said Bonaparte, "to-morrow the 19th. Change the date, Bourrienne;" and he handed the paper to his secretary.
"You expect to be ready for the 18th?"
"I shall be. Fouché said day before yesterday, 'Make haste, or I won't answer for the result.'"
"The 19th Brumaire," said Bourrienne, returning the paper to the general. Bonaparte resumed:
Art. II. They will assemble there to-morrow, the 19th Brumaire, at noon. All deliberations are forbidden elsewhere and before the above date.
Bonaparte read the article a second time.
"Good," said he; "there is no double meaning there." And he continued: Art. III. General Bonaparte is charged with the enforcement of this decree; he will take all necessary measures for the safety of the National Legislature. A satirical smile flickered on the stony lips of the reader, but he continued almost immediately.
The general commanding the 17th military division, the guard of the Legislature, the stationary national guard the troops of the line within the boundaries of the Commune of Paris, and those in the constitutional arrondissement, and throughout the limits of the said 17th division, are placed directly under his orders, and are directed to regard him as their commanding officer. "Bourrienne, add: 'All citizens will lend him assistance when called upon.' The bourgeois love to meddle in political matters, and when they really can help us in our projects we ought to grant them this satisfaction."
Bourrienne obeyed; then he returned the paper to the general, who went on: Art. IV. General Bonaparte is summoned before the Council to receive a copy of the present decree, and to make oath thereto. He will consult with the inspecting commissioners of both branches of the Council.
Art. V. The present decree shall be transmitted immediate, by messenger, to all the members of the Council of Five Hundred and to the Executive Directory. It shall be printed and posted, and promulgated throughout the communes of the Republic by special messengers.
Done at Paris this....
"The date is left blank," said Lucien.
"Put 'the 18th Brumaire,' Bourrienne; the decree must take everybody by surprise. It must be issued at seven o'clock in the morning, and at the same hour or even earlier it must be posted on all the walls of Paris."
"But suppose the Ancients won't consent to issue it?" said Lucien. "All the more reason to have it posted, ninny," said Bonaparte. "We must act as if it had been issued."
"Am I to correct this grammatical error in the last paragraph?" asked Bourrienne, laughing.
"Where?" demanded Lucien, in the tone of an aggrieved author.
"The word 'immediate,'" replied Bourrienne. "You can't say 'transmitted immediate'; it ought to be 'immediately.'"
"It's not worth while," said Bonaparte. "I shall act, you may be sure, as if it were 'immediately.'" Then, after an instant's reflection, he added: "As to what you said just now about their not being willing to pass it, there's a very simple way to get it passed."
"What is that."
"To convoke the members of whom we are sure at six o'clock in the morning, and those of whom we are not sure at eight. Having only our own men, it will be devilishly hard to lose the majority."
"But six o'clock for some, and eight for the others--" objected Lucien. "Employ two secretaries; one of them can make a mistake." Then turning to Lucien, he said: "Write this."
And walking up and down, he dictated without hesitating, like a man who has long thought over and carefully prepared what he dictates; stopping occasionally beside Bourrienne to see if the secretary's pen were following his every word: CITIZENS--The Council of the Ancients, the trustee of the nation's wisdom, has issued the subjoined decree: it is authorized by articles 102 and 103 of the Constitution.
This decree enjoins me to take measures for the safety of the National Legislature, and its necessary and momentary removal.
Bourrienne looked at Bonaparte; instantaneous was the word the latter had intended to use, but as the general did not correct himself, Bourrienne left momentary.
Bonaparte continued to dictate:
The Legislature will find means to avoid the imminent danger into
which the disorganization of all parts of the administration has
But it needs, at this crisis, the united support and confidence of
patriots. Rally around it; it offers the only means of establishing
the Republic on the bases of civil liberty, internal prosperity,
victory and peace.
Bonaparte perused this proclamation, and nodded his head in sign of approval. Then he looked at his watch.
"Eleven o'clock," he said; "there is still time."
Then, seating himself in Bourrienne's chair, he wrote a few words in the form of a note, sealed it, and wrote the address: "To the Citizen Barras."
"Roland," said he, when he had finished, "take a horse out of the stable, or a carriage in the street, and go to Barras' house. I have asked him for an interview tomorrow at midnight. I want an answer."
Roland left the room. A moment later the gallop of a horse resounded through the courtyard, disappearing in the direction of the Rue du Mont-Blanc. "Now, Bourrienne," said Bonaparte, after listening to the sound, "to-morrow at midnight, whether I am in the house or not, you will take my carriage and go in my stead to Barras."
"In your stead, general?"
"Yes. He will do nothing all day, expecting me to accept him on my side at night. At midnight you will go to him, and say that I have such a bad headache I have had to go to bed, but that I will be with him at seven o'clock in the morning without fail. He will believe you, or he won't believe you; but at any rate it will be too late for him to act against us. By seven in the morning I shall have ten thousand men under my command."
"Very good, general. Have you any other orders for me?"
"No, not this evening," replied Bonaparte. "Be here early to-morrow." "And I?" asked Lucien.
"See Sièyes; he has the Ancients in the hollow of his hand. Make all your arrangements with him. I don't wish him to be seen here, nor to be seen myself at his house. If by any chance we fail, he is a man to repudiate. After tomorrow I wish to be master of my own actions, and to have no ties with any one." "Do you think you will need me to-morrow?"
"Come back at night and report what happens."
"Are you going back to the salon?"
"No. I shall wait for Josephine in her own room. Bourrienne, tell her, as you pass through, to get rid of the people as soon as possible."
Then, saluting Bourrienne and his brother with a wave of the hand, he left his study by a private corridor, and went to Josephine's room. There, lighted by a single alabaster lamp, which made the conspirator's brow seem paler than ever, Bonaparte listened to the noise of the carriages, as one after the other they rolled away. At last the sounds ceased, and five minutes later the door opened to admit Josephine.
She was alone, and held a double-branched candlestick in her hand. Her face, lighted by the double flame, expressed the keenest anxiety.
"Well," Bonaparte inquired, "what ails you?"
"I am afraid!" said Josephine.
"Of what? Those fools of the Directory, or the lawyers of the two Councils? Come, come! I have Sièyes with me in the Ancients, and Lucien in the Five Hundred."
"Then all goes well?"
"You sent me word that you were waiting for me here, and I feared you had some bad news to tell me."
"Pooh! If I had bad news, do you think I would tell you?"
"How reassuring that is!"
"Well, don't be uneasy, for I have nothing but good news. Only, I have given you a part in the conspiracy."
"What is it?"
"Sit down and write to Gohier."
"That we won't dine with him?"
"On the contrary, ask him to come and breakfast with us. Between those who like each other as we do there can't be too much intercourse."
Josephine sat down at a little rosewood writing desk "Dictate," said she; "I will write."
"Goodness! for them to recognize my style! Nonsense; you know better than I how to write one of those charming notes there is no resisting."
Josephine smiled at the compliment, turned her forehead to Bonaparte, who kissed it lovingly, and wrote the following note, which we have copied from the original:
To the Citizen Gohier, President of the Executive Directory of the French Republic--
"Is that right?" she asked.
"Perfectly! As he won't wear this title of President much longer, we won't cavil at it."
"Don't you mean to make him something?"
"I'll make him anything he pleases, if he does exactly what I want. Now go on, my dear."
Josephine picked up her pen again and wrote:
Come, my dear Gohier, with your wife, and breakfast with us to-morrow at eight o'clock. Don't fail, for I have some very interesting things to tell you.
Adieu, my dear Gohier! With the sincerest friendship,
"I wrote to-morrow," exclaimed Josephine. "Shall I date it the 17th Brumaire?" "You won't be wrong," said Bonaparte; "there's midnight striking." In fact, another day had fallen into the gulf of time; the clock chimed twelve. Bonaparte listened gravely and dreamily. Twenty-four hours only separated him from the solemn day for which he had been scheming for a month, and of which he had dreamed for years.
Let us do now what he would so gladly have done, and spring over those twentyfour hours intervening to the day which history has not yet judged, and see what happened in various parts of Paris, where the events we are about to relate produced an overwhelming sensation.
23. Alea Jacta Est
At seven in the morning, Fouché, minister of police, entered the bedroom of Gohier, president of the Directory.
"Oh, ho!" said Gohier, when he saw him. "What has happened now, monsieur le ministre, to give me the pleasure of seeing you so early?"
"Don't you know about the decree?" asked Fouché.
"What decree?" asked honest Gohier.
"The decree of the Council of the Ancients."
"When was it issued?"
"So the Council of the Ancients assembles at night now?"
"When matters are urgent, yes."
"And what does the decree say."
"It transfers the legislative sessions to Saint-Cloud."
Gohier felt the blow. He realized the advantage which Bonaparte's daring genius might obtain by this isolation.
"And since when," he asked Fouché, "is the minister of police transformed into a messenger of the Council of the Ancients?"
"That's where you are mistaken, citizen president," replied the ex-Conventional. "I am more than ever minister of police this morning, for I have come to inform you of an act which may have the most serious consequences."
Not being as yet sure of how the conspiracy of the Rue de la Victoire would turn out, Fouché was not averse to keeping open a door for retreat at the Luxembourg. But Gohier, honest as he was, knew the man too well to be his dupe.
"You should have informed me of this decree yesterday, and not this morning; for in making the communication now you are scarcely in advance of the official communication I shall probably receive in a few moments."
As he spoke, an usher opened the door and informed the president that a messenger from the Inspectors of the Council of the Ancients was there, and asked to make him a communication.
"Let him come in," said Gohier.
The messenger entered and handed the president a letter. He broke the seal hastily and read:
CITIZEN PRESIDENT--The Inspecting Commission hasten to inform you of a decree removing the residence of the legislative body
We invite you to meet the Commission of the Ancients. You will find Sièyes and Ducos already there.
"Very good," said Gohier, dismissing the messenger with a wave of his hand. The messenger went out. Gohier turned to Fouché.
"Ah!" said he, "the plot is well laid; they inform me of the decree, but they do not send it to me. Happily you are here to tell me the terms of it."
"But," said Fouché, "I don't know them."
"What! do you the minister of police, mean to tell me that you know nothing about this extraordinary session of the Council of the Ancients, when it has been put on record by a decree?"
"Of course I knew it took place, but I was unable to be present."
"And you had no secretary, no amanuensis to send, who could give you an account, word for word, of this session, when in all probability this session will dispose of the fate of France! Ah, citizen Fouché, you are either a very deep, or a very shallow minister of police!"
"Have you any orders to give me, citizen president?" asked Fouché. "None, citizen minister," replied the president. "If the Directory judges it advisable to issue any orders, it will be to men whom it esteems worthy of its confidence. You may return to those who sent you," he added, turning his back upon the minister.
Fouché went, and Gohier immediately rang his bell. An usher entered. "Go to Barras, Sièyes, Ducos, and Moulins, and request them to come to me at once. Ah! And at the same time ask Madame Gohier to come into my study, and to bring with her Madame Bonaparte's letter inviting us to breakfast with her." Five minutes later Madame Gohier entered, fully dressed, with the note in her hand. The invitation was for eight o'clock. It was then half-past seven, and it would take at least twenty minutes to drive from the Luxembourg to the Rue de la Victoire.
"Here it is, my dear," said Madame Gohier, handing the letter to her husband. "It says eight o'clock."
"Yes," replied Gohier, "I was not in doubt about the hour, but about the day." Taking the note from his wife's hand, he read it over:
Come, my dear Gohier, with your wife, and breakfast with me to-morrow at eight o'clock. Don't fail, for I have some very interesting things to tell you.
"Ah," said Gohier, "there can be no mistake."
"Well, my dear, are we going?" asked Madame Gohier.
"You are, but not I. An event has just happened about which the citizen Bonaparte is probably well-informed, which will detain my colleagues and myself at the Luxembourg."
"A serious event?"
"Then I shall stay with you."
"No, indeed; you would not be of any service here. Go to Madame Bonaparte's. I may be mistaken, but, should anything extraordinary happen, which appears to you alarming, send me word some way or other. Anything will do; I shall understand half a word."
"Very good, my dear; I will go. The hope of being useful to you is sufficient." "Do go!"
Just then the usher entered, and said:
"General Moulins is at my heels; citizen Barras is in his bath, and will soon be here; citizens Sièyes and Ducos went out at five o'clock this morning, and have not yet returned."
"They are the two traitors!" said Gohier; "Barras is only their dupe." Then kissing his wife, he added: "Now, go."
As she turned round, Madame Gohier came face to face with General Moulins. He, for his character was naturally impetuous, seemed furious.
"Pardon me, citizeness," he said. Then, rushing into Gohier's study, he cried: "Do you know what has happened, president?"
"No, but I have my suspicions."
"The legislative body has been transferred to Saint-Cloud; the execution of the decree has been intrusted to General Bonaparte, and the troops are placed under his orders."
"Ha! The cat's out of the bag!" exclaimed Gohier.
"Well, we must combine, and fight them."
"Have you heard that Sièyes and Ducos are not in the palace?"
"By Heavens! they are at the Tuileries! But Barras is in his bath; let us go to Barras. The Directory can issue decrees if there is a majority. We are three, and, I repeat it, we must make a struggle!"
"Then let us send word to Barras to come to us as soon as he is out of his bath." "No; let us go to him before he leaves it."
The two Directors left the room, and hurried toward Barras' apartment. They found him actually in his bath, but they insisted on entering.
"Well?" asked Barras as soon as he saw them.
"Have you heard?"
They told him what they themselves knew.
"Ah!" cried Barras, "that explains everything."
"What do you mean?"
"Yes, that is why he didn't come last night."
"Did you expect him last evening?"
"He sent me word by one of his aides-de-camp that he would call on me at eleven o'clock last evening."
"And he didn't come?"
"No. He sent Bourrienne in his carriage to tell me that a violent headache had obliged him to go to bed; but that he would be here early this morning." The Directors looked at each other.
"The whole thing is plain," said they.
"I have sent Bollot, my secretary, a very intelligent fellow, to find out what he can," continued Barras.
He rang and a servant entered.
"As soon as citizen Bollot returns," said Barras, "ask him to come here." "He is just getting out of his carriage."
"Send him up! Send him up!"
But Bollot was already at the door.
"Well?" cried the three Directors.
"Well, General Bonaparte, in full uniform, accompanied by Generals Beurnonville, Macdonald and Moreau, are on their way to the Tuileries, where ten thousand troops are awaiting them."
"Moreau! Moreau with him!" exclaimed Gohier.
"On his right!"
"I always told you that Moreau was a sneak, and nothing else!" cried Moulins, with military roughness.
"Are you still determined to resist, Barras?" asked Gohier.
"Yes," replied Barras.
"Then dress yourself and join us in the council-room."
"Go," said Barras, "I follow you."
The two Directors hastened to the council-room. After waiting ten minutes Moulins said: "We should have waited for Barras; if Moreau is a sneak, Barras is a knave."
Two hours later they were still waiting for Barras.
Talleyrand and Bruix had been admitted to Barras' bathroom just after Gohier and Moulins had left it, and in talking with them Barras forgot his appointment. We will now see what was happening in the Rue de la Victoire.
At seven o'clock, contrary to his usual custom, Bonaparte was up and waiting in full uniform in his bedroom. Roland entered. Bonaparte was perfectly calm; they were on the eve of a battle.
"Has no one come yet, Roland?" he asked.
"No, general," replied the young man, "but I heard the roll of a carriage just now." "So did I," replied Bonaparte.
At that minute a servant announced: "The citizen Joseph Bonaparte, and the citizen General Bernadotte."
Roland questioned Bonaparte with a glance; was he to go or stay? He was to stay. Roland took his stand at the corner of a bookcase like a sentinel at his post. "Ah, ha!" exclaimed Bonaparte, seeing that Bernadotte was still attired in civilian's clothes, "you seem to have a positive horror of the uniform, general!" "Why the devil should I be in uniform at seven in the morning," asked Bernadotte, "when I am not in active service?"
"You will be soon."
"But I am retired."
"Yes, but I recall you to active service."
"In the name of the Directory?"
"Is there still a Directory?"
"Still a Directory? What do you mean?"
"Didn't you see the troops drawn up in the streets leading to the Tuileries as you came here?"
"I saw them, and I was surprised."
"Those soldiers are mine."
"Excuse me," said Bernadotte; "I thought they belonged to France." "Oh, to France or to me; is it not all one?"
"I was not aware of that," replied Bernadotte, coldly.
"Though you doubt it now, you will be certain of it tonight. Come, Bernadotte, this is the vital moment; decide!"
"General," replied Bernadotte, "I am fortunate enough to be at this moment a simple citizen; let me remain a simple citizen."
"Bernadotte, take care! He that is not for me is against me."
"General, pay attention to your words! You said just now, 'Take care.' If that is a threat, you know very well that I do not fear them."
Bonaparte came up to him, and took him by both hands.
"Oh, yes, I know that; that is why I must have you with me. I not only esteem you, Bernadotte, but I love you. I leave you with Joseph; he is your brother-in-law. Between brothers, devil take it, there should be no quarrelling."
"Where are you going?"
"In your character of Spartan you are a rigid observer of the laws, are you not? Well, here is a decree issued by the Council of Five Hundred last night, which confers upon me the immediate command of the troops in Paris. So I was right," he added, "when I told you that the soldiers you met were mine, inasmuch as they are under my orders."
And he placed in Bernadotte's hands the copy of the decree which had been sent to him at six o'clock that morning. Bernadotte read it through from the first line to the last.
"To this," said he, "I have nothing to object. Secure the safety of the National Legislature, and all good citizens will be with you."
"Then be with me now."
"Permit me, general, to wait twenty-four hours to see how you fulfil that mandate."
"Devil of a man!" cried Bonaparte. "Have your own way." Then, taking him by the arm, he dragged him a few steps apart from Joseph, and continued, "Bernadotte, I want to play above-board with you."
"Why so," retorted the latter, "since I am not on your side?"
"Never mind. You are watching the game, and I want the lookers-on to see that I am not cheating."
"Do you bind me to secrecy?"
"That is well, for in that case I should have refused to listen to your confidences." "Oh! my confidences are not long! Your Directory is detested, your Constitution is worn-out; you must make a clean sweep of both, and turn the government in another direction. You don't answer me."
"I am waiting to hear what you have to say."
"All I have to say is, Go put on your uniform. I can't wait any longer for you. Join me at the Tuileries among our comrades."
Bernadotte shook his head.
"You think you can count on Moreau, Beurnonville, and Lefebvre," resumed Bonaparte. "Just look out of that window. Who do you see there, and there? Moreau and Beurnonville. As for Lefebvre, I do not see him, but I am certain I shall not go a hundred steps before meeting him. Now will you decide?" "General," replied Bernadotte, "I am not a man to be swayed by example, least of all when that example is bad. Moreau, Beurnonville, and Lefebvre may do as they wish. I shall do as I ought!"
"So you definitively refuse to accompany me to the Tuileries?"
"I do not wish to take part in a rebellion."
"A rebellion! A rebellion! Against whom? Against a parcel of imbeciles who are pettifogging from morning till night in their hovels."
"These imbeciles, general, are for the moment the representatives of the law. The Constitution protects them; they are sacred to me."
"At least promise me one thing, iron rod that you are."
"What is it?"
"To keep quiet."
"I will keep quiet as a citizen, but--"
"But what? Come, I made a clean breast of it to you; do you do likewise." "But if the Directory orders me to act, I shall march against the agitators, whoever they may be."
"Ah! So you think I am ambitious?" asked Bonaparte.
"I suspect as much," retorted Bernadotte, smiling.
"Faith," said Bonaparte, "you don't know me. I have had enough of politics, and what I want is peace. Ah, my dear fellow! Malmaison and fifty thousand a year, and I'd willingly resign all the rest. You don't believe me. Well, I invite you to come and see me there, three months hence, and if you like pastorals, we'll do one together. Now, au revoir! I leave you with Joseph, and, in spite of your refusal, I shall expect you at the Tuileries. Hark! Our friends are becoming impatient."
They were shouting: "Vive Bonaparte!"
Bernadotte paled slightly. Bonaparte noticed this pallor.
"Ah, ha," he muttered. "Jealous! I was mistaken; he is not a Spartan, he is an Athenian!"
As Bonaparte had said, his friends were growing impatient. During the hour that had elapsed since the decree had been posted, the salon, the anterooms, and the courtyard had been crowded. The first person Bonaparte met at the head of the staircase was his compatriot, Colonel Sebastiani, then commanding the 9th Dragoons.
"Ah! is that you, Sebastiani?" said Bonaparte. "Where are your men?" "In line along the Rue de la Victoire, general."
"Enthusiastic! I distributed among them ten thousand cartridges which I had in store."
"Yes; but you had no right to draw those cartridges out without an order from the commandant of Paris. Do you know that you have burned your vessels, Sebastiani?"
"Then take me into yours, general. I have faith in your fortunes."
"You mistake me for Cæsar, Sebastiani!"
"Faith! I might make worse mistakes. Besides, down below in the courtyard there are forty officers or more, of all classes, without pay, whom the Directory has left in the most complete destitution for the last year. You are their only hope, general; they are ready to die for you."
"That's right. Go to your regiment, and take leave of it."
"Take leave of it? What do you mean, general?"
"I exchange it for a brigade. Go, go!"
Sebastiani did not wait to be told twice. Bonaparte continued his way. At the foot of the stairs he met Lefebvre.
"Here I am, general!" said Lefebvre.
"You? And where is the 17th military division?"
"I am waiting for my appointment to bring it into action."
"Haven't you received your appointment?"
"From the Directory, yes. But as I am not a traitor, I have just sent in my resignation, so that they may know I am not to be counted on."
"And you have come for me to appoint you, so that I may count on you, is that it?"
"Quick, Roland, a blank commission; fill in the general's name, so that I shall only have to put my name to it. I'll sign it on the pommel of my saddle." "That's the true sort," said Lefebvre.
The young man, who had already started obediently, came back to the general. "Fetch me that pair of double-barrelled pistols on my mantel-piece at the same time," said Bonaparte, in a low tone. "One never knows what may happen." "Yes, general," said Roland; "besides, I shan't leave you."
"Unless I send you to be killed elsewhere."
"True," replied the young man, hastening away to fulfil his double errand. Bonaparte was continuing on his way when he noticed a shadow in the corridor. He recognized Josephine, and ran to her.
"Good God!" cried she, "is there so much danger?"
"What makes you think that?"
"I overheard the order you gave Roland."
"Serves you right for listening at doors. How about Gohier?"
"He hasn't come."
"Nor his wife?"
"She is here."
Bonaparte pushed Josephine aside with his hand and entered the salon. He found Madame Gohier alone and very pale.
"What!" said he, without any preamble, "isn't the President coming?" "He was unable to do so, general," replied Madame Gohier.
Bonaparte repressed a movement of impatience. "He absolutely must come," said he. "Write him that I await him, and I will have the note sent." "Thank you, general," replied Madame Gohier; "my servants are here, and they can attend to that."
"Write, my dear friend, write," said Josephine, offering her paper and pen and ink.
Bonaparte stood so that he could see over her shoulder what she wrote. Madame Gohier looked fixedly at him, and he drew back with a bow. She wrote the note, folded it, and looked about her for the sealing-wax; but, whether by accident or intention, there was none. Sealing the note with a wafer, she rang the bell. A servant came.
"Give this note to Comtois," said Madame Gohier, "and bid him take it to the Luxembourg at once."
Bonaparte followed the servant, or rather the letter, with his eyes until the door closed. Then, turning to Madame Gohier, he said: "I regret that I am unable to breakfast with you. But if the President has business to attend to, so have I. You must breakfast with my wife. Good appetite to you both."
And he went out. At the door he met Roland.
"Here is the commission, general," said the young man, "and a pen." Bonaparte took the pen, and using the back of his aide-de-camp's hat, he signed the commission. Roland gave him the pistols.
"Did you look; to them?" asked Bonaparte.
Roland smiled. "Don't be uneasy," said he; "I'll answer for them."
Bonaparte slipped the pistols in his belt, murmuring as he did so: "I wish I knew what she wrote her husband."
"I can tell you, word for word, what she wrote, general," said a voice close by. "You, Bourrienne?"
"Yes. She wrote: 'You did right not to come, my dear; all that is happening here convinces me that the invitation was only a snare. I will rejoin you shortly.'" "You unsealed the letter?"
"General, Sextus Pompey gave a dinner on his galley to Antony and Lepidus. His freedman said to him: 'Shall I make you emperor of the world?' 'How can you do it?' 'Easily. I will cut the cable of your galley, and Antony and Lepidus are prisoners.' 'You should have done so without telling me,' replied Sextus. 'Now I charge you on your life not to do it.' I remembered those words, general: 'You should have done so without telling me.'"
Bonaparte thought an instant; then he said: "You are mistaken; it was Octavius and not Antony who was on Sextus' galley with Lepidus." And he went on his way to the courtyard, confining his blame to the historical blunder. Hardly had the general appeared on the portico than cries of "Vive Bonaparte!" echoed through the courtyard into the street, where they were taken up by the dragoons drawn up in line before the gate.
"That's a good omen, general," said Roland.
"Yes. Give Lefebvre his commission at once; and if he has no horse, let him take one of mine. Tell him to meet me in the court of the Tuileries."
"His division is already there."
"All the more reason."
Glancing about him, Bonaparte saw Moreau and Beurnonville, who were waiting for him, their horses held by orderlies. He saluted them with a wave of his hand, already that of a master rather than that of a comrade. Then, perceiving General Debel out of uniform, he went down the steps and approached him. "Why are you in civilian's dress?" he asked.
"General, I was not notified. I chanced to be passing along the street, and, seeing the crowd before your house, I came in, fearing you might be in danger." "Go and put on your uniform quickly."
"But I live the other side of Paris; it would take too long." But, nevertheless, he made as if to retire.
"What are you going to do?"
"Don't be alarmed, general."
Debel had noticed an artilleryman on horseback who was about his size. "Friend," said he, "I am General Debel. By order of General Bonaparte lend me your uniform and your horse, and I'll give you furlough for the day. Here's a louis to drink the health of the commander- in-chief. To-morrow, come to my house for your horse and uniform. I live in the Rue Cherche-Midi, No. 11."
"Will nothing be done to me?"
"Yes, you shall be made a corporal."
"Good!" said the artilleryman; and he quickly handed over his uniform and horse to General Debel.
In the meantime, Bonaparte heard talking above him. He raised his head and saw Joseph and Bernadotte at a window.
"Once more, general," he said to Bernadotte, "will you come with me?" "No," said the latter, firmly. Then, lowering his tone, he continued: "You told me just now to take care."
"Well, I say to you, take care."
"You are going to the Tuileries?"
"The Tuileries are very near the Place de la Révolution."
"Pooh!" retorted Bonaparte, "the guillotine has been moved to the Barrière du Trône."
"Never mind. The brewer Santerre still controls the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, and Santerre is Moulins' friend."
"Santerre has been warned that at the first inimical movement he attempts I will have him shot. Will you come?"
"As you please. You are separating your fortunes from mine; I do not separate mine from yours." Then, calling to his orderly, he said: "My horse!" They brought his horse. Seeing an artillery private near him, he said: "What are you doing among the epaulets?"
The artilleryman began to laugh.
"Don't you recognize me, general?" he asked.
"Faith, it's Debel! Where did you get that horse and the uniform?" "From that artilleryman you see standing there in his shirt. It will cost you a corporal's commission."
"You are wrong, Debel," said Bonaparte; "it will cost me two commissions, one for the corporal, and one for the general of division. Forward, march, gentlemen! We are going to the Tuileries."
And, bending forward on his horse, as he usually did, his left hand holding a slack rein, his right resting on his hip, with bent head and dreamy eyes, he made his first steps along that incline, at once glorious and fatal, which was to lead him to a throne--and to St. Helena.
24. The Eighteenth Brumaire
On entering the Rue de la Victoire, Bonaparte found Sebastiani's dragoons drawn up in line of battle. He wished to address them, but they interrupted him at the first words, shouting: "We want no explanations. We know that you seek only the good of the Republic. Vive Bonaparte!"
The cortège followed the streets which led from the Rue de la Victoire to the Tuileries, amid the cries of "Vive Bonaparte!"
General Lefebvre, according to promise, was waiting at the palace gates. Bonaparte, on his arrival at the Tuileries, was hailed with the same cheers that had accompanied him. Once there, he raised his head and shook it. Perhaps this cry of "Vive Bonaparte!" did not satisfy him. Was he already dreaming of "Vive Napoleon?"
He advanced in front of the troop, surrounded by his staff, and read the decree of the Five Hundred, which transferred the sessions of the Legislature to SaintCloud and gave him the command of the armed forces.
Then, either from memory, or offhand--Bonaparte never admitted any one to such secrets--instead of the proclamation he had dictated to Bourrienne two days earlier, he pronounced these words:
"Soldiers--The Council of Ancients has given me the command of the city and the army.
"I have accepted it, to second the measures to be adopted for the good of the people.
"The Republic has been ill governed for two years. You have hoped for my return to put an end to many evils. You celebrated it with a unanimity which imposes obligations that I now fulfil. Fulfil yours, and second your general with the vigor, firmness and strength I have always found in you.
"Liberty, victory, and peace will restore the French Republic to the rank it occupied in Europe, which ineptitude and treason alone caused her to lose!" The soldiers applauded frantically. It was a declaration of war against the Directory, and soldiers will always applaud a declaration of war.
The general dismounted, amid shouts and bravos, and entered the Tuileries. It was the second time he had crossed the threshold of this palace of the Valois, whose arches had so ill-sheltered the crown and head of the last Bourbon who had reigned there. Beside him walked citizen Roederer. Bonaparte started as he recognized him, and said:
"Ah! citizen Roederer, you were here on the morning of August 10." "Yes, general," replied the future Count of the Empire.
"It was you who advised Louis XVI. to go before the National Assembly." "Yes."
"Bad advice, citizen Roederer! I should not have followed it."
"We advise men according to what we know of them. I would not give General Bonaparte the same advice I gave King Louis XVI. When a king has the fact of his flight to Varennes and the 20th of June behind him, it is difficult to save him." As Roederer said these words, they reached a window opening on the garden of the Tuileries. Bonaparte stopped, and, seizing Roederer by the arm, he said: "On the 20th of June I was there," pointing with his finger to the terrace by the water, "behind the third linden. Through the open window I could see the poor king, with the red cap on his head. It was a piteous sight; I pitied him."
"What did you do?"
"Nothing, I could do nothing; I was only a lieutenant of artillery. But I longed to go in like the others, and whisper: 'Sire, give me four cannon, and I'll sweep the whole rabble out.'"
What would have happened if Lieutenant Bonaparte had followed his impulse, obtained what he wanted from Louis XVI., and swept the rabble out, that is to say the people of Paris? Had his cannon made a clean sweep on June 20th, would he have had to make another the 13th Vendemiaire for the benefit of the Convention?
While the ex-Syndic; who had grown grave, was outlining in his mind the opening pages of his future "History of the Consulate," Bonaparte presented himself at the bar of the Council of the Ancients, followed by his staff, and by all those who chose to do likewise. When the tumult caused by this influx of people had subsided, the president read over the decree which invested Bonaparte with the military power. Then, after requesting him to take the oath, the president added: "He who has never promised his country a victory which he did not win, cannot fail to keep religiously his new promise to serve her faithfully."
Bonaparte stretched forth his hand and said solemnly:
"I swear it!"
All the generals repeated after him, each for himself:
"I swear it!"
The last one had scarcely finished, when Bonaparte recognized Barras' secretary, that same Bollot of whom Barras had spoken that morning to his two colleagues. He had come there solely to give his patron an account of all that was happening there, but Bonaparte fancied he was sent on some secret mission by Barras. He resolved to spare him the first advance, and went straight to him, saying:
"Have you come on behalf of the Directors?" Then, without giving him time to answer, he continued: "What have they done with that France I left so brilliant? I left peace; I find war. I left victories; I find reverses. I left the millions of Italy, and I find spoliation and penury. What have become of the hundred thousand Frenchmen whom I knew by name? They are dead!"
It was not precisely to Barras' secretary that these words should have been said; but Bonaparte wished to say them, needed to say them, and little he cared to whom he said them. Perhaps even, from his point of view, it was better to say them to some one who could not answer him. At that moment Sièyes rose. "Citizens," said he, "the Directors Moulins and Gohier ask to be admitted." "They are no longer Directors," said Bonaparte, "for there is no longer a Directory."
"But," objected Sièyes, "they have not yet sent in their resignation." "Then admit them and let them give it," retorted Bonaparte.
Moulins and Gohier entered. They were pale but calm. They knew they came to force a struggle, but behind their resistance may have loomed the Sinnamary. The exiles they sent there the 18th of Fructidor pointed the way.
"I see with satisfaction," Bonaparte hastened to say, "that you have yielded to our wishes and those of your two colleagues."
Gohier made a step forward and said firmly: "We yield neither to your wishes, nor to those of our two colleagues, who are no longer our colleagues, since they have resigned, but to the Law. It requires that the decree transferring the legislative body to Saint-Cloud shall be proclaimed without delay. We have come here to fulfil the duty which the law imposes on us, fully determined to defend it against all factious persons, whoever they may be, who attempt to attack it." "Your zeal does not astonish us," replied Bonaparte; "and because you are a man who loves his country you will unite with us."
"Unite with you! And why?"
"To save the Republic."
"To save the Republic! There was a time, general, when you had the honor to be its prop. But to-day the glory of saving it is reserved for us."
"You save it!" retorted Bonaparte. "How will you do that? With the means your Constitution gives you? Why, that Constitution is crumbling on all sides, and even if I did not topple it over, it could not last eight days."
"Ah!" cried Moulins, "at last you avow your hostile intentions."
"My intentions are not hostile!" shouted Bonaparte, striking the floor with the heel of his boot. "The Republic is in peril; it must be saved, and I shall do it." "You do it?" cried Gohier. "It seems to me it is for the Directory, not you, to say, 'I shall do it!'"
"There is no longer a Directory."
"I did indeed hear that you said so just a moment before we came in." "There is no longer a Directory, now that Sièyes and Ducos have resigned." "You are mistaken. So long as there are three Directors, the Directory still exists. Neither Moulins, Barras nor myself, have handed in our resignations." At that moment a paper was slipped in Bonaparte's hand, and a voice said in his ear: "Read it." He did so; then said aloud: "You, yourself, are mistaken. Barras has resigned, for here is his resignation. The law requires three Directors to make a Directory. You are but two, and, as you said just now, whoever resists the law is a rebel." Then handing the paper to the president, he continued: "Add the citizen Barras' resignation to that of citizens Sièyes and Ducos, and proclaim the fall of the Directory. I will announce it to my soldiers."
Moulins and Gohier were confounded. Barras' resignation sapped the foundations of all their plans. Bonaparte had nothing further to do at the Council of Ancients, but there still remained much to be done in the court of the Tuileries. He went down, followed by those who had accompanied him up. His soldiers no sooner caught sight, of him than they burst into shouts of "Vive Bonaparte!" more noisily and more eagerly than ever. He sprang into his saddle and made them a sign that he wished to speak to them. Ten thousand voices that had burst into cries were hushed in a moment. Silence fell as if by enchantment.
"Soldiers," said Bonaparte, in a voice so loud that all could hear it, "your comrades in arms on the frontiers are denuded of the necessaries of life. The people are miserable. The authors of these evils are the factious men against whom I have assembled you to-day. I hope before long to lead you to victory; but first we must deprive those who would stand in the way of public order and general prosperity of their power to do harm."
Whether it was weariness of the government of the Directory, or the fascination exercised by the magic being who called them to victory--so long forgotten in his absence--shouts of enthusiasm arose, and like a train of burning powder spread from the Tuileries to the Carrousel, from the Carrousel to the adjacent streets. Bonaparte profited by this movement. Turning to Moreau, he said: "General, I will give you proof of the immense confidence I have in you. Bernadotte, whom I left at my house, and who refused to follow us, had the audacity to tell me that if he received orders from the Directory he should execute them against whosoever the agitators might be. General, I confide to you the guardianship of the Luxembourg. The tranquillity of Paris and the welfare of the Republic are in your hands."
And without waiting for a reply he put his horse to a gallop, and rode off to the opposite end of the line.
Moreau, led by military ambition, had consented to play a part in this great drama; he was now forced to accept that which the author assigned him. On returning to the Louvre, Gohier and Moulins found nothing changed apparently. All the sentries were at their posts. They retired to one of the salons of the presidency to consult together. But they had scarcely begun their conference, when General Jubé, the commandant of the Luxembourg, received orders to join Bonaparte at the Tuileries with the guard of the Directory. Their places were filled by Moreau and a portion of the soldiers who had been electrified by Bonaparte. Nevertheless the two Directors drew up a message for the Council of the Five Hundred, in which they protested energetically against what had been done. When this was finished Gohier handed it to his secretary, and Moulins, half dead with exhaustion, returned to his apartments to take some food.
It was then about four o'clock in the afternoon. An instant later Gohier's secretary returned in great perturbation.
"Well," said Gohier, "why have you not gone?"
"Citizen president," replied the young man, "we are prisoners in the palace." "Prisoners? What do you mean?"
"The guard has been changed, and General Jubé is no longer in command." "Who has replaced him?"
"I think some one said General Moreau."
"Moreau? Impossible! And that coward, Barras, where is he?"
"He has started for his country-place at Grosbois."
"Ah! I must see Moulins!" cried Gohier, rushing to the door. But at the entrance he found a sentry who barred the door. Gohier insisted.
"No one can pass," said the sentry.
"What! not pass?"
"But I am President Gohier!"
"No one can pass," said the sentry; "that is the order."
Gohier saw it would be useless to say more; force would be impossible. He returned to his own rooms.
In the meantime, General Moreau had gone to see Moulins; he wished to justify himself. Without listening to a word the ex-Director turned his back on him, and, as Moreau insisted, he said: "General, go into the ante-chamber. That is the place for jailers."
Moreau bowed his head, and understood for the first time into what a fatal trap his honor had fallen.
At five o'clock, Bonaparte started to return to the Rue de la Victoire; all the generals and superior officers in Paris accompanied him. The blindest, those who had not understood the 13th Vendemiaire, those who had not yet understood the return from Egypt, now saw, blazing over the Tuileries, the star of his future, and as everybody could not be a planet, each sought to become a satellite.
The shouts of "Vive Bonaparte!" which came from the lower part of the Rue du Mont Blanc, and swept like a sonorous wave toward the Rue de la Victoire, told Josephine of her husband's return. The impressionable Creole had awaited him anxiously. She sprang to meet him in such agitation that she was unable to utter a single word.
"Come, come!" said Bonaparte, becoming the kindly man he was in his own home, "calm yourself. We have done to-day all that could be done." "Is it all over?"
"Oh, no!" replied Bonaparte.
"Must it be done all over again to-morrow?"
"Yes, but to-morrow it will be merely a formality."
That formality was rather rough; but every one knows of the events at SaintCloud. We will, therefore, dispense with relating them, and turn at once to the result, impatient as we are to get back to the real subject of our drama, from which the grand historical figure we have introduced diverted us for an instant. One word more. The 20th Brumaire, at one o'clock in the morning, Bonaparte was appointed First Consul for ten years. He himself selected Cambacérès and Lebrun as his associates under the title of Second Consuls, being firmly resolved this time to concentrate in his own person, not only all the functions of the two consuls, but those of the ministers.
The 20th Brumaire he slept at the Luxembourg in president Gohier's bed, the latter having been liberated with his colleague Moulins.
Roland was made governor of the Luxembourg.
25. An Important Communication
Some time after this military revolution, which created a great stir in Europe, convulsing the Continent for a time, as a tempest convulses the ocean--some time after, we say, on the morning of the 30th Nivoise, better and more clearly known to our readers as the 20th of January, 1800, Roland, in looking over the voluminous correspondence which his new office entailed upon him, found, among fifty other letters asking for an audience, the following:
MONSIEUR THE GOVERNOR-I know your loyalty to your word, and you will see that I rely on it. I wish to speak to you for five minutes, during which I must remain masked.
I have a request to make to you. This request you will grant or deny. In either case, as I shall have entered the Palace of the Luxembourg in the interest o£ the First Consul, Bonaparte, and the royalist party to which I belong, I shall ask for your word of honor that I be allowed to leave it as freely as you allow me to enter.
If to-morrow, at seven in the evening, I see a solitary light in the window over the clock, I shall know that Colonel Roland de Montrevel has pledged me his word of honor, and I shall boldly present myself at the little door of the left wing of the palace, opening on the garden. I shall strike three blows at intervals, after the manner of the free-masons.
In order that you may know to whom you engage or refuse your word, I sign a name which is known to you, that name having been, under circumstances you have probably not forgotten, pronounced before you.
Chief of the Companions of Jehu.
Roland read the letter twice, thought it over for a few moments, then rose suddenly, and, entering the First Consul's study, handed it to him silently. The latter read it without betraying the slightest emotion, or even surprise; then, with a laconism that was wholly Lacedæmonian, he said: "Place the light." Then he gave the letter back to Roland.
The next evening, at seven o'clock, the light shone in the window, and at five minutes past the hour, Roland in person was waiting at the little door of the garden. He had scarcely been there a moment when three blows were struck on the door after the manner of the free-masons; first two strokes and then one. The door was opened immediately. A man wrapped in a cloak was sharply defined against the grayish atmosphere of the wintry night. As for Roland, he was completely hidden in shadow. Seeing no one, the man in the cloak remained motionless for a second.
"Come in," said Roland.
"Ah! it is you, colonel!"
"How do you know it is I?" asked Roland.
"I recognize your voice."
"My voice! But during those few moments we were together in the dining-room at Avignon I did not say a word."
"Then I must have heard it elsewhere."
Roland wondered where the Chief of the Companions of Jehu could have heard his voice, but the other said gayly: "Is the fact that I know your voice any reason why we should stand at the door?"
"No, indeed," replied Roland; "take the lapel of my coat and follow me. I purposely forbade any lights being placed in the stairs and hall which lead to my room."
"I am much obliged for the intention. But on your word I would cross the palace from one end to the other, though it were lighted à giorno, as the Italians say." "You have my word," replied Roland, "so follow me without fear."
Morgan needed no encouragement; he followed his guide fearlessly. At the head of the stairs Roland turned down a corridor equally dark, went twenty steps, opened a door, and entered his own room. Morgan followed him. The room was lighted by two wax candles only. Once there, Morgan took off his cloak and laid his pistols on the table.
"What are you doing?" asked Roland.
"Faith! with your permission," replied Morgan, gayly, "I am making myself comfortable."
"But those pistols you have just laid aside--"
"Ah! did you think I brought them for you?"
"For whom then?"
"Why, that damned police! You can readily imagine that I am not disposed to let citizen Fouché lay bold of me, without burning the mustache of the first of his minions who lays hands on me."
"But once here you feel you have nothing to fear?"
"The deuce!" exclaimed the young man; "I have your word."
"Then why don't you unmask?"
"Because my face only half belongs to me; the other half belongs to my companions. Who knows if one of us being recognized might not drag the others to the guillotine? For of course you know, colonel, we don't hide from ourselves that that is the price of our game!"
"Then why risk it?"
"Ah! what a question. Why do you venture on the field of battle, where a bullet may plow through your breast or a cannon-ball lop off your head?"
"Permit me to say that that is different. On the battlefield I risk an honorable death."
"Ah! do you suppose that on the day I get my head cut off by the revolutionary triangle I shall think myself dishonored? Not the least in the world. I am a soldier like you, only we can't all serve our cause in the same way. Every religion has its heroes and its martyrs; happy the heroes in this world, and happy the martyrs in the next."
The young man uttered these words with a conviction which moved, or rather astonished, Roland.
"But," continued Morgan, abandoning his enthusiasm to revert to the gayety which seemed the distinctive trait of his character, "I did not come here to talk political philosophy. I came to ask you to let me speak to the First Consul." "What! speak to the First Consul?" exclaimed Roland.
"Of course. Read my letter over; did I not tell you that I had a request to make?" "Yes."
"Well, that request is to let me speak to General Bonaparte."
"But permit me to say that as I did not expect that request--"
"It surprises you; makes you uneasy even. My dear colonel, if you don't believe my word, you can search me from head to foot, and you will find that those pistols are my only weapons. And I haven't even got them, since there they are on your table. Better still, take one in each hand, post yourself between the First Consul and me, and blowout my brains at the first suspicious move I make. Will that suit you?"
"But will you assure me, if I disturb the First Consul and ask him to see you, that your communication is worth the trouble?"
"Oh! I'll answer for that," said Morgan. Then, in his joyous tones, he added: "I am for the moment the ambassador of a crowned, or rather discrowned, head, which makes it no less reverenced by noble hearts. Moreover, Monsieur Roland, I shall take up very little of your general's time; the moment the conversation seems too long, he can dismiss me. And I assure you he will not have to say the word twice."
Roland was silent and thoughtful for a moment.
"And it is to the First Consul only that you can make this communication?" "To the First Consul only, as he alone can answer me."
"Very well. Wait until I take his orders."
Roland made a step toward the general's room; then he paused and cast an uneasy look at a mass of papers piled on his table. Morgan intercepted this look. "What!" he said, "you are afraid I shall read those papers in your absence? If you only knew how I detest reading! If my death-warrant lay on that table, I wouldn't take the trouble to read it. I should consider that the clerk's business. And every one to his own task. Monsieur Roland, my feet are cold, and I will sit here in your easy-chair and warm them. I shall not stir till you return."
"Very good, monsieur," said Roland, and he went to the First Consul. Bonaparte was talking with General Hedouville, commanding the troops of the Vendée. Hearing the door open, he turned impatiently.
"I told Bourrienne I would not see any one."
"So he told me as I came in, but I told him that I was not any one." "True. What do you want? Be quick."
"He is in my room."
"The man of Avignon."
"Ah, ha! And what does he want?"
"To see you."
"To see me?"
"Yes, you, general. Does that surprise you?"
"No. But what can he want to say to me?"
"He refused obstinately to tell me. But I dare answer for it that he is neither importunate nor a fool."
"No, but he may be an assassin."
Roland shook his head.
"Of course, since you introduce him--"
"Moreover, he is willing that I should be present at the conference and stand between you and him."
Bonaparte reflected an instant.
"Bring him in," he said.
"You know, general, that except me--"
"Yes, General Hedouville will be so kind as to wait a second. Our conversation is of a nature that is not exhausted in one interview. Go, Roland."
Roland left the room, crossed Bourrienne's office, reentered his own room, and found Morgan, as he had said, warming his feet.
"Come, the First Consul is waiting for you," said the young man.
Morgan rose and followed Roland. When they entered Bonaparte's study the latter was alone. He cast a rapid glance on the chief of the Companions of Jehu, and felt no doubt that he was the same man he had seen at Avignon. Morgan had paused a few steps from the door, and was looking curiously at Bonaparte, convincing himself that he was the man he had seen at the table d'hôte the day he attempted the perilous restoration of the two hundred louis stolen by an oversight from Jean Picot.
"Come nearer," said the First Consul.
Morgan bowed and made three steps forward. Bonaparte partly returned the bow with a slight motion of the head.
"You told my aide-de-camp, Colonel Roland, that you had a communication to make me."
"Yes, citizen First Consul."
"Does that communication require a private interview?"
"No, citizen First Consul, although it is of such importance--"
"You would prefer to be alone."
"Beyond doubt. But prudence--"
"The most prudent thing in France, citizen Morgan, is courage."
"My presence here, general, proves that I agree with you perfectly." Bonaparte turned to the young colonel.
"Leave us alone, Roland," said he.
"But, general--" objected Roland.
Bonaparte went up to him and said in a low voice: "I see what it is. You are curious to know what this mysterious cavalier of the highroad has to say to me. Don't worry; you shall know."
"That's not it. But suppose, as you said just now, he is an assassin." "Didn't you declare he was not. Come, don't be a baby; leave us." Roland went out.
"Now that we are alone, sir," said the First Consul, "speak!"
Morgan, without answering, drew a letter from his pocket and gave it to the general. Bonaparte examined it. It was addressed to him, and the seal bore the three fleurs-de-lis of France.
"Oh!" he said, "what is this, sir?"
"Read it, citizen First Consul."
Bonaparte opened the letter and looked at the signature: "Louis," he said. "Louis," repeated Morgan.
"Louis de Bourbon, I presume."
"Monsieur le Comte de Provençe, brother of Louis XVI."
"Consequently Louis XVIII., since his nephew, the Dauphin, is dead." Bonaparte looked at the stranger again. It was evident that Morgan was a pseudonym, assumed to hide his real name. Then, turning his eyes on the letter, he read:
January 3, 1800.
Whatever may be their apparent conduct, monsieur, men like you never inspire distrust. You have accepted an exalted post, and I thank you for so doing. You know, better than others, that force and power are needed to make the happiness of a great nation. Save France from her own madness, and you will fulfil the desire of my heart; restore her king, and future generations will bless your memory. If you doubt my gratitude, choose your own place, determine the future of your friends. As for my principles, I am a Frenchman, clement by nature, still more so by judgment. No! the conqueror of Lodi, Castiglione and Arcola, the conqueror of Italy and Egypt, cannot prefer an empty celebrity to fame. Lose no more precious time. We can secure the glory of France. I say we, because I have need of Bonaparte for that which he cannot achieve without me. General, the eyes of Europe are upon you, glory awaits you, and I am eager to restore my people to happiness.
Bonaparte turned to the young man, who stood erect, motionless and silent as a statue.
"Do you know the contents of this letter?" he asked.
The young man bowed. "Yes, citizen First Consul."
"It was sealed, however."
"It was sent unsealed under cover to the person who intrusted it to me. And before doing so he made me read it, that I might know its full importance." "Can I know the name of the person who intrusted it to you?"
Bonaparte started slightly.
"Do you know Georges Cadoudal?" he asked.
"He is my friend."
"Why did he intrust it to you rather than to another?"
"Because he knew that in telling me to deliver the letter to you with my own hand it would be done."
"You have certainly kept your promise, sir."
"Not altogether yet, citizen First Consul."
"How do you mean? Haven't you delivered it to me?"
"Yes, but I promised to bring back an answer."
"But if I tell you I will not give one."
"You will have answered; not precisely as I could have wished, but it will be an answer."
Bonaparte reflected for a few moments. Then shaking his shoulders to rid himself of his thoughts, he said: "They are fools."
"Who, citizen?" asked Morgan.
"Those who write me such letters--fools, arch fools. Do they take me for a man who patterns his conduct by the past? Play Monk! What good would it do? Bring back another Charles II.? No, faith, it is not worth while. When a man has Toulon, the 13th Vendemiaire, Lodi, Castiglione, Arcola, Rivoli and the Pyramids behind him, he's no Monk. He has the right to aspire to more than a duchy of Albemarle, and the command by land and sea of the forces of his Majesty King Louis XVIII." "For that reason you are asked to make your own conditions, citizen First Consul."
Bonaparte started at the sound of that voice as if he had forgotten that any one was present.
"Not counting," he went on, "that it is a ruined family, a dead branch of a rotten trunk. The Bourbons have so intermarried with one another that the race is depraved; Louis XIV. exhausted all its sap, all its vigor.--You know history, sir?" asked Bonaparte, turning to the young man.
"Yes, general," he replied; "at least as well as a ci-devant can know it." "Well, you must have observed in history, especially in that of France, that each race has its point of departure, its culmination, and its decadence. Look at the direct line of the Capets; starting from Hugues Capet, they attained their highest grandeur in Philippe Auguste and Louis XI., and fell with Philippe V. and Charles IV. Take the Valois; starting with Philippe VI., they culminated in François I. and fell with Charles IX. and Henry III. See the Bourbons; starting with Henry IV., they have their culminating point in Louis XIV. and fall with Louis XV. and Louis XVI.-only they fall lower than the others; lower in debauchery with Louis XV., lower in misfortune with Louis XVI. You talk to me of the Stuarts, and show me the example of Monk. Will you tell me who succeeded Charles II.? James II. And who to James II.? William of Orange, a usurper. Would it not have been better, I ask you, if Monk had put the crown on his own head? Well, if I was fool enough to restore Louis XVIII. to the throne, like Charles II. he would have no children, and, like James II., his brother Charles X. would succeed him, and like him would be driven out by some William of Orange. No, no! God has not put the destiny of this great and glorious country we call France into my hands that I should cast it back to those who have gambled with it and lost it."
"Permit me, general, to remark that I did not ask you for all this."
"But I, I ask you--"
"I think you are doing me the honor to take me for posterity."
Bonaparte started, turned round, saw to whom he was speaking, and was silent. "I only want," said Morgan, with a dignity which surprised the man whom he addressed, "a yes or a no."
"And why do you want that?"
"To know whether we must continue to war against you as an enemy, or fall at your feet as a savior."
"War," said Bonaparte, "war! Madmen, they who war with me! Do they not see that I am the elect of God?"
"Attila said the same thing."
"Yes; but he was the elect of destruction; I, of the new era. The grass withered where he stepped; the harvest will ripen where I pass the plow. War? Tell me what has become of those who have made it against me? They lie upon the plains of Piedmont, of Lombardy and Cairo!"
"You forget the Vendée; the Vendée is still afoot."
"Afoot, yes! but her leaders? Cathelineau, Lescure, La Rochejaquelin, d'Elbée, Bonchamps, Stoffiet, Charette?"
"You are speaking of men only; the men have been mown down, it is true; but the principle is still afoot, and for it are fighting Autichamp, Suzannet, Grignon, Frotté, Châtillon, Cadoudal. The younger may not be worth the elder, but if they die as their elders died, what more can you ask?"
"Let them beware! If I determine upon a campaign against the Vendée I shall send neither Santerre nor Rossignol!"
"The Convention sent Kléber, and the Directory, Hoche!"
"I shall not send; I shall go myself."
"Nothing worse can happen to them than to be killed like Lescure, or shot like Charette."
"It may happen that I pardon them."
"Cato taught us how to escape the pardon of Cæsar."
"Take care; you are quoting a Republican!"
"Cato was one of those men whose example can be followed, no matter to what party they belong."
"And suppose I were to tell you that I hold the Vendée in the hollow of my hand?" "You!"
"And that within three months, she will lay down her arms if I choose?" The young man shook his head.
"You don't believe me?"
"I hesitate to believe you."
"If I affirm to you that what I say is true; if I prove it by telling you the means, or rather the men, by whom I shall bring this about?"
"If a man like General Bonaparte affirms a thing, I shall believe it; and if that thing is the pacification of the Vendée, I shall say in my turn: 'Beware! Better the Vendée fighting than the Vendée conspiring. The Vendée fighting means the sword, the Vendée conspiring means the dagger.'"
"Oh! I know your dagger," said Bonaparte. "Here it is."
And he drew from a drawer the dagger he had taken from Roland and laid it on the table within reach of Morgan's hand.
"But," he added, "there is some distance between Bonaparte's breast and an assassin's dagger. Try."
And he advanced to the young man with a flaming eye.
"I did not come here to assassinate you," said the young man, coldly. "Later, if I consider your death indispensable to the cause, I shall do all in my power, and if I fail it will not be because you are Marius and I the Cimbrian. Have you anything else to say to me, citizen First Consul?" concluded the young man, bowing. "Yes. Tell Cadoudal that when he is ready to fight the enemy, instead of Frenchmen, I have a colonel's commission ready signed in my desk for him." "Cadoudal commands, not a regiment, but an army. You were unwilling to retrograde from Bonaparte to Monk; why should you expect him to descend from general to colonel? Have you nothing else to say to me, citizen First Consul?" "Yes. Have you any way of transmitting my reply to the Comte de Provençe?" "You mean King Louis XVIII.?"
"Don't let us quibble over words. To him who wrote to me."
"His envoy is now at the camp at Aubiers."
"Well, I have changed my mind; I shall send him an answer. These Bourbons are so blind that this one would misinterpret my silence."
And Bonaparte, sitting down at his desk, wrote the following letter with a care that showed he wished to make it legible:
I have received your letter, monsieur. I thank you for the good opinion you express in it of me. You must not wish for your return to France; it could only be over a hundred thousand dead bodies. Sacrifice your own interests to the repose and welfare of France. History will applaud you. I am not insensible to the misfortunes of your family, and I shall hear with pleasure that you are surrounded with all that could contribute to the tranquillity of your retreat. BONAPARTE. Then, folding and sealing the letter, he directed it to "Monsieur le Comte de Provençe," and handed it to Morgan. Then he called Roland, as if he knew the latter were not far off.
"General?" said the young officer, appearing instantly.
"Conduct this gentleman to the street," said Bonaparte. "Until then you are responsible for him."
Roland bowed in sign of obedience, let the young man, who said not a word, pass before him, and then followed. But before leaving, Morgan cast a last glance at Bonaparte.
The latter was still standing, motionless and silent, with folded arms, his eyes fixed upon the dagger, which occupied his thoughts far more than he was willing to admit even to himself.
As they crossed Roland's room, the Chief of the Companions of Jehu gathered up his cloak and pistols. While he was putting them in his belt, Roland remarked: "The citizen First Consul seems to have shown you a dagger which I gave him." "Yes, monsieur," replied Morgan.
"Did you recognize it?"
"Not that one in particular; all our daggers are alike."
"Well," said Roland, "I will tell you whence it came."
"Ah! where was that?"
"From the breast of a friend of mine, where your Companions, possibly you yourself, thrust it."
"Possibly," replied the young man carelessly. "But your friend must have exposed himself to punishment."
"My friend wished to see what was happening at night in the Chartreuse." "He did wrong."
"But I did the same wrong the night before, and nothing happened to me." "Probably because some talisman protects you."
"Monsieur, let me tell you something. I am a straight-forward man who walks by daylight. I have a horror of all that is mysterious."
"Happy those who can walk the highroads by daylight, Monsieur de Montrevel!" "That is why I am going to tell you the oath I made, Monsieur Morgan. As I drew the dagger you saw from my friend's breast, as carefully as possible, that I might not draw his soul with it, I swore that henceforward it should be war to the death between his assassins and myself. It was largely to tell you that that I gave you a pledge of safety."
"That is an oath I hope to see you forget, Monsieur de Montrevel." "It is an oath I shall keep under all circumstances, Monsieur Morgan; and you would be most kind if you would furnish me with an opportunity as soon as possible."
"In what way, sir?"
"Well, for example, by accepting a meeting with me, either in the Bois de Boulogne or at Vincennes. We don't need to say that we are fighting because you or one of your friends stabbed Lord Tanlay. No; we can say anything you please." (Roland reflected a moment.) "We can say the duel is on account of the eclipse that takes place on the 12th of next month. Does the pretext suit you?" "The pretext would suit me," replied Morgan, in a tone of sadness of which he seemed incapable, "if the duel itself could take place. You have taken an oath, and you mean to keep it, you say. Well, every initiate who enters the Company of Jehu swears that he will not expose in any personal quarrel a life that belongs to the cause and not to himself."
"Oh! So that you assassinate, but will not fight."
"You are mistaken. We sometimes fight."
"Have the goodness to point out an occasion when I may study that phenomenon."
"Easily enough. If you and five or six men, as resolute as yourself, will take your places in some diligence carrying government money, and will defend it against our attack, the occasion you seek will come. But, believe me, do better than that; do not come in our way."
"Is that a threat, sir?" asked the young man, raising his head.
"No," replied Morgan, in a gentle, almost supplicating voice, "it is an entreaty." "Is it addressed to me in particular, or would you include others?"
"I make it to you in particular;" and the chief of the Companions of Jehu dwelt upon the last word.
"Ah!" exclaimed the young man, "then I am so fortunate as to interest you?" "As a brother," replied Morgan, in the same soft, caressing tone.
"Well, well," said Roland, "this is decidedly a wager,"
Bourrienne entered at that moment.
"Roland," he said, "the First Consul wants you."
"Give me time to conduct this gentleman to the street, and I'll be with him." "Hurry up; you know he doesn't like to wait."
"Will you follow me, sir?" Roland said to his mysterious companion. "I am at your orders, sir."
"Come, then," And Roland, taking the same path by which he had brought Morgan, took him back, not to the door opening on the garden (the garden was closed), but to that on the street. Once there, he stopped and said: "Sir, I gave you my word, and I have kept it faithfully, But that there may be no misunderstanding between us, have the goodness to tell me that you understand it to have been for this one time and for to-day only."
"That was how I understood it, sir,"
"You give me back my word then?"
"I should like to keep it, sir; but I recognize that you are free to take it back." "That is all I wish to know. Au revoir! Monsieur Morgan."
"Permit me not to offer you the same wish, Monsieur de Montrevel." The two young men bowed with perfect courtesy, Roland re-entered the Luxembourg, and Morgan, following the line of shadow projected by the walls, took one of the little streets to the Place Saint-Sulpice.
It is he whom we are now to follow.
26. The Ball Of The Victims
After taking about a hundred steps Morgan removed his mask. He ran more risk of being noticed in the streets of Paris as a masked man than with uncovered face.
When he reached the Rue Taranne he knocked at the door of a small furnished lodging-house at the corner of that street and the Rue du Dragon, took a candlestick from a table, a key numbered 12 from a nail, and climbed the stairs without exciting other attention than a well-known lodger would returning home. The clock was striking ten as he closed the door of his room. He listened attentively to the strokes, the light of his candle not reaching as far as the chimney-piece. He counted ten.
"Good!" he said to himself; "I shall not be too late."
In spite of this probability, Morgan seemed determined to lose no time. He passed a bit of tinder-paper under the heater on the hearth, which caught fire instantly. He lighted four wax-candles, all there were in the room, placed two on the mantel-shelf and two on a bureau opposite, and spread upon the bed a complete dress of the Incroyable of the very latest fashion. It consisted of a short coat, cut square across the front and long behind, of a soft shade between a pale-green and a pearl-gray; a waistcoat of buff plush, with eighteen mother-ofpearl buttons; an immense white cravat of the finest cambric; light trousers of white cashmere, decorated with a knot of ribbon where they buttoned above the calves, and pearl-gray silk stockings, striped transversely with the same green as the coat, and delicate pumps with diamond buckles. The inevitable eye-glass was not forgotten. As for the hat, it was precisely the same in which Carle Vernet painted his dandy of the Directory.
When these things were ready, Morgan waited with seeming impatience. At the end of five minutes he rang the bell. A waiter appeared.
"Hasn't the wig-maker come?" asked Morgan.
In those days wig-makers were not yet called hair-dressers.
"Yes, citizen," replied the waiter, "he came, but you had not yet returned, so he left word that he'd come back. Some one knocked just as you rang; it's probably-"
"Here, here," cried a voice on the stairs.
"Ah! bravo," exclaimed Morgan. "Come in, Master Cadenette; you must make a sort of Adonis of me."
"That won't be difficult, Monsieur le Baron," replied the wig-maker. "Look here, look here; do you mean to compromise me, citizen Cadenette?" "Monsieur le Baron, I entreat you, call me Cadenette; you'll honor me by that proof of familiarity; but don't call me citizen. Fie; that's a revolutionary denomination! Even in the worst of the Terror I always called my wife Madame Cadenette. Now, excuse me for not waiting for you; but there's a great ball in the Rue du Bac this evening, the ball of the Victims (the wig-maker emphasized this word). I should have thought that M. le Baron would be there."
"Why," cried Morgan, laughing; "so you are still a royalist, Cadenette?" The wig-maker laid his hand tragically on his heart.
"Monsieur le Baron," said he, "it is not only a matter of conscience, but a matter of state."
"Conscience, I can understand that, Master Cadenette, but state! What the devil has the honorable guild of wigmakers to do with politics?"
"What, Monsieur le Baron?" said Cadenette, all the while getting ready to dress his client's hair; "you ask me that? You, an aristocrat!"
"Monsieur le Baron, we ci-devants can say that to each other."
"So you are a ci-devant?"
"To the core! In what style shall I dress M. le Baron's hair?"
"Dog's ears, and tied up behind."
"With a dash of powder?"
"Two, if you like, Cadenette."
"Ah! monsieur, when one thinks that for five years I was the only man who had an atom of powder 'à la maréchale.' Why, Monsieur le Baron, a man was guillotined for owning a box of powder!"
"I've known people who were guillotined for less than that, Cadenette. But explain how you happen to be a ci-devant. I like to understand everything." "It's very simple, Monsieur le Baron. You admit, don't you, that among the guilds there were some that were more or less aristocratic."
"Beyond doubt; accordingly as they were nearer to the higher classes of society." "That's it, Monsieur le Baron. Well, we had the higher classes by the hair of their head. I, such as you see me, I have dressed Madame de Polignac's hair; my father dressed Madame du Barry's; my grandfather, Madame de Pompadour's. We had our privileges, Monsieur; we carried swords. It is true, to avoid the accidents that were liable to crop up among hotheads like ourselves, our swords were usually of wood; but at any rate, if they were not the actual thing, they were very good imitations. Yes, Monsieur le Baron," continued Cadenette with a sigh, "those days were the good days, not only for the wig-makers, but for all France. We were in all the secrets, all the intrigues; nothing was hidden from us. And there is no known instance, Monsieur le Baron, of a wig-maker betraying a secret. Just look at our poor queen; to whom did she trust her diamonds? To the great, the illustrious Leonard, the prince of wig-makers. Well, Monsieur le Baron, two men alone overthrew the scaffolding of a power that rested on the wigs of Louis XIV., the puffs of the Regency, the frizettes of Louis-XV., and the cushions of Marie Antoinette."
"And those two men, those levellers, those two revolutionaries, who were they, Cadenette? that I may doom them, so far as it lies in my power, to public execration."
"M. Rousseau and citizen Talma: Monsieur Rousseau who said that absurdity, 'We must return to Nature,' and citizen Talma, who invented the Titus headdress."
"That's true, Cadenette; that's true."
"When the Directory came in there was a moment's hope. M. Barras never gave up powder, and citizen Moulins stuck to his queue. But, you see, the 18th Brumaire has knocked it all down; how could any one friz Bonaparte's hair! Ah! there," continued Cadenette, puffing out the dog's ears of his client--"there's aristocratic hair for you, soft and fine as silk, and takes the tongs so well one would think you wore a wig. See, Monsieur le Baron, you wanted to be as handsome as Adonis! Ah! if Venus had seen you, it's not of Adonis that Mars would have been jealous!"
And Cadenette, now at the end of his labors and satisfied with the result, presented a hand-mirror to Morgan, who examined himself complacently. "Come, come!" he said to the wig-maker, "you are certainly an artist, my dear fellow! Remember this style, for if ever they cut off my head I shall choose to have it dressed like that, for there will probably be women at my execution." "And M. le Baron wants them to regret him," said the wig-maker gravely. "Yes, and in the meantime, my dear Cadenette, here is a crown to reward your labors. Have the goodness to tell them below to call a carriage for me." Cadenette sighed.
"Monsieur le Baron," said he, "time was when I should have answered: 'Show yourself at court with your hair dressed like that, and I shall be paid.' But there is no court now, Monsieur le Baron, and one must live. You shall have your carriage."
With which Cadenette sighed again, slipped Morgan's crown in his pocket, made the reverential bow of wig-makers and dancing-masters, and left the young man to complete his toilet.
The head being now dressed, the rest was soon done; the cravat alone took time, owing to the many failures that occurred; but Morgan concluded the difficult task with an experienced hand, and as eleven o'clock was striking he was ready to start. Cadenette had not forgotten his errand; a hackney-coach was at the door. Morgan jumped into it, calling out: "Rue du Bac, No. 60."
The coach turned into the Rue de Grenelle, went up the Rue du Bac, and stopped at No. 60.
"Here's a double fare, friend," said Morgan, "on condition that you don't stand before the door."
The driver took the three francs and disappeared around the corner of the Rue de Varennes. Morgan glanced up the front of the house; it seemed as though he must be mistaken, so dark and silent was it. But he did not hesitate; he rapped in a peculiar fashion.
The door opened. At the further end of the courtyard was a building, brilliantly lighted. The young man went toward it, and, as he approached, the sound of instruments met his ear. He ascended a flight of stairs and entered the dressingroom. There he gave his cloak to the usher whose business it was to attend to the wraps.
"Here is your number," said the usher. "As for your weapons, you are to place them in the gallery where you can find them easily."
Morgan put the number in his trousers pocket, and entered the great gallery transformed into an arsenal. It contained a complete collection of arms of all kinds, pistols, muskets, carbines, swords, and daggers. As the ball might at any moment be invaded by the police, it was necessary that every dancer be prepared to turn defender at an instant's notice. Laying his weapons aside, Morgan entered the ballroom.
We doubt if any pen could give the reader an adequate idea of the scene of that ball. Generally, as the name "Ball of the Victims" indicated, no one was admitted except by the strange right of having relatives who had either been sent to the scaffold by the Convention or the Commune of Paris, blown to pieces by Collot d'Herbois, or drowned by Carrier. As, however, the victims guillotined during the three years of the Terror far outnumbered the others, the dresses of the majority of those who were present were the clothes of the victims of the scaffold. Thus, most of the young girls, whose mothers and older sisters had fallen by the hands of the executioner, wore the same costume their mothers and sisters had worn for that last lugubrious ceremony; that is to say, a white gown and red shawl, with their hair cut short at the nape of the neck. Some added to this costume, already so characteristic, a detail that was even more significant; they knotted around their necks a thread of scarlet silk, fine as the blade of a razor, which, as in Faust's Marguerite, at the Witches' Sabbath, indicated the cut of the knife between the throat and the collar bone.
As for the men who were in the same case, they wore the collars of their coats turned down behind, those of their shirt wide open, their necks bare, and their hair, cut short.
But many had other rights of entrance to this ball besides that of having Victims in their families; some had made victims themselves. These latter were increasing. There were present men of forty or forty-five years of age, who had been trained in the boudoirs of the beautiful courtesans of the seventeenth century--who had known Madame du Barry in the attics of Versailles, Sophie Arnoult with M. de Lauraguais, La Duthé with the Comte d'Artois--who had borrowed from the courtesies of vice the polish with which they covered their ferocity. They were still young and handsome; they entered a salon, tossing their perfumed locks and their scented handkerchiefs; nor was it a useless precaution, for if the odor of musk or verbena had not masked it they would have smelled of blood.
There were men there twenty-five or thirty years old, dressed with extreme elegance, members of the association of Avengers, who seemed possessed with the mania of assassination, the lust of slaughter, the frenzy of blood, which no blood could quench--men who, when the order came to kill, killed all, friends or enemies; men who carried their business methods into the business of murder, giving their bloody checks for the heads of such or such Jacobins, and paying on sight.
There were younger men, eighteen and twenty, almost children, but children fed, like Achilles, on the marrow of wild beasts, like Pyrrhus, on the flesh of bears; here were the pupil-bandits of Schiller, the apprentice-judges of the SainteVehme--that strange generation that follows great political convulsions, like the Titans after chaos, the hydras after the Deluge; as the vultures and crows follow the carnage.
Here was the spectre of iron impassible, implacable, inflexible, which men call Retaliation; and this spectre mingled with the guests. It entered the gilded salons; it signalled with a look, a gesture, a nod, and men followed where it led. It was, as says the author from whom we have borrowed these hitherto unknown but authentic details, "a merry lust for extermination."
The Terror had affected great cynicism in clothes, a Spartan austerity in its food, the profound contempt of a barbarous people for arts and enjoyments. The Thermidorian reaction was, on the contrary, elegant, opulent, adorned; it exhausted all luxuries, all voluptuous pleasures, as in the days of Louis XV.; with one addition, the luxury of vengeance, the lust of blood.
Fréron's name was given to the youth of the day, which was called the jeunesse Fréron, or the jéunesse dorée (gilded youth). Why Fréron? Why should he rather than others receive that strange and fatal honor?
I cannot tell you--my researches (those who know me will do me the justice to admit that when I have an end in view, I do not count them)--my researches have not discovered an answer. It was a whim of Fashion, and Fashion is the one goddess more capricious than Fortune.
Our readers will hardly know to-day who Fréron was. The Fréron who was Voltaire's assailant was better known than he who was the patron of these elegant assassins; one was the son of the other. Louis Stanislas was son of ElieCatherine. The father died of rage when Miromesnil, Keeper of the Seals, suppressed his journal. The other, irritated by the injustices of which his father had been the victim, had at first ardently embraced the revolutionary doctrines. Instead of the "Année Littéraire," strangled to death in 1775, he created the "Orateur du Peuple," in 1789. He was sent to the Midi on a special mission, and Marseilles and Toulon retain to this day the memory of his cruelty. But all was forgotten when, on the 9th Thermidor, he proclaimed himself against Robespierre, and assisted in casting from the altar the Supreme Being, the colossus who, being an apostle, had made himself a god. Fréron, repudiated by the Mountain, which abandoned him to the heavy jaws of Moise Bayle; Fréron, disdainfully repulsed by the Girondins, who delivered him over to the imprecations of Isnard; Fréron, as the terrible and picturesque orator of the Var said, "Fréron naked and covered with the leprosy of crime," was accepted, caressed and petted by the Thermidorians. From them he passed into the camp of the royalists, and without any reason whatever for obtaining that fatal honor, found himself suddenly at the head of a powerful party of youth, energy and vengeance, standing between the passions of the day, which led to all, and the impotence of the law, which permitted all.
It was to the midst of this jeunesse Fréron, mouthing its words, slurring its r's, giving its "word of honor" about everything, that Morgan now made his way. It must be admitted that this jeunesse, in spite of the clothes it wore, in spite of the memories these clothes evoked, was wildly gay. This seems incomprehensible, but it is true. Explain if you can that Dance of Death at the beginning of the fifteenth century, which, with all the fury of a modern galop, led by Musard, whirled its chain through the very Cemetery of the Innocents, and left amid its tombs fifty thousand of its votaries.
Morgan was evidently seeking some one.
A young dandy, who was dipping into the silver-gilt comfit-box of a charming victim, with an ensanguined finger, the only part of his delicate hand that had escaped the almond paste, tried to stop him, to relate the particulars of the expedition from which he had brought back this bloody trophy. But Morgan smiled, pressed his other hand which was gloved, and contented himself with replying: "I am looking for some one."
"Company of Jehu."
The young man with the bloody finger let him pass. An adorable Fury, as Corneille would have called her, whose hair was held up by a dagger with a blade as sharp as a needle, barred his way, saying: "Morgan, you are the handsomest, the bravest, the most deserving of love of all the men present. What have you to say to the woman who tells you that?"
"I answer that I love," replied Morgan, "and that my heart is too narrow to hold one hatred and two loves." And he continued on his search.
Two young men who were arguing, one saying, "He was English," the other, "He was German," stopped him.
"The deuce," cried one; "here is the man who can settle it for us." "No," replied Morgan, trying to push past them; "I'm in a hurry."
"There's only a word to say," said the other. "We have made a bet, Saint-Amand and I, that the man who was tried and executed at the Chartreuse du Seillon, was, according to him, a German, and, according to me, an Englishman." "I don't know," replied Morgan; "I wasn't there. Ask Hector; he presided that night."
"Tell us where Hector is?"
"Tell me rather where Tiffauges is; I am looking for him."
"Over there, at the end of the room," said the young man, pointing to a part of the room where the dance was more than usually gay and animated. "You will recognize him by his waistcoat; and his trousers are not to be despised. I shall have a pair like them made with the skin of the very first hound I meet." Morgan did not take time to ask in what way Tiffauges' waistcoat was remarkable, or by what queer cut or precious material his trousers had won the approbation of a man as expert in such matters as he who had spoken to him. He went straight to the point indicated by the young man, saw the person he was seeking dancing an été, which seemed, by the intricacy of its weaving, if I may be pardoned for this technical term, to have issued from the salons of Vestris himself.
Morgan made a sign to the dancer. Tiffauges stopped instantly, bowed to his partner, led her to her seat, excused himself on the plea of the urgency of the matter which called him away, and returned to take Morgan's arm. "Did you see him," Tiffauges asked Morgan.
"I have just left him," replied the latter.
"Did you deliver the King's letter?"
"Did he read it?"
"Has he sent an answer?"
"Two; one verbal, one written; the second dispenses with the first." "You have it?"
"Here it is."
"Do you know the contents?"
"Nothing could be more positive."
"Does he know that from the moment he takes all hope away from us we shall treat him as an enemy?"
"I told him so."
"What did he answer?"
"He didn't answer; he shrugged his shoulders."
"What do you think his intentions are?"
"It's not difficult to guess."
"Does he mean to keep the power himself?"
"It looks like it."
"The power, but not the throne?"
"Why not the throne?"
"He would never dare to make himself king."
"Oh! I can't say he means to be absolutely king, but I'll answer for it that he means to be something."
"But he is nothing but a soldier of fortune!"
"My dear fellow, better in these days to be the son of his deeds, than the grandson of a king."
The young man thought a moment.
"I shall report it all to Cadoudal," he said.
"And add that the First Consul said these very words: 'I hold the Vendée in the hollow of my hand, and if I choose in three months not another shot will be fired.'" "It's a good thing to know."
"You know it; let Cadoudal know it, and take measures."
Just then the music ceased; the hum of the dancers died away; complete silence prevailed; and, in the midst of this silence, four names were pronounced in a sonorous and emphatic voice.
These four names were Morgan, Montbar, Adler and d'Assas.
"Pardon me," Morgan said to Tiffauges, "they are probably arranging some expedition in which I am to take part. I am forced, therefore, to my great regret, to bid you farewell. Only before I leave you let me look closer at your waistcoat and trousers, of which I have heard--curiosity of an amateur; I trust you will excuse it." "Surely!" exclaimed the young Vendéan, "most willingly."