Part 6 out of 14
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
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
"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
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
"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
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.
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
Roland left the room. A moment later the gallop of a horse resounded
through the courtyard, disappearing in the direction of the Rue
"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
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
"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
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
"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,
Yours, LA PAGERIE-BONAPARTE.
"I wrote to-morrow," exclaimed Josephine. "Shall I date it the
"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 twenty-four 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
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
"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
The decree will be forwarded to you; but measures for public
safety are at present occupying our attention.
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"These imbeciles, general, are for the moment the representatives
of the law. The Constitution protects them; they are sacred to
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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.
"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
"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.
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.
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 Saint-Cloud 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
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
"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
"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
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
"They are no longer Directors," said Bonaparte, "for there is
no longer a Directory."
"But," objected Sièyes, "they have not yet sent in their
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 Saint-Cloud. 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.
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
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
"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?"
"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
"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
"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
"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,"
"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
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
Bonaparte started at the sound of that voice as if he had forgotten
that any one was present.