Part 9 out of 14
a promptness and abnegation that were almost Oriental, it seemed
amazing to him to encounter, at the opposite ends of France, two
organized powers, enemies of the power of that man, and prepared
to struggle against it. Suppose a Jew of Judas Maccabeus, a
worshipper of Jehovah, having, from his infancy, heard him called
the King of kings, the God of strength, of vengeance, of armies,
the Eternal, coming suddenly face to face with the mysterious
Osiris of the Egyptians, or the thundering Jupiter of the Greeks.
His adventures at Avignon and Bourg with Morgan and the Company
of Jehu, his adventures in the villages of Muzillac and the Trinité
with Cadoudal and his Chouans, seemed to him some strange initiation
in an unknown religion; but like those courageous neophytes who
risk death to learn the secrets of initiation, he resolved to
follow to the end.
Besides he was not without a certain admiration for these exceptional
characters; nor did he measure without a certain amazement these
revolted Titans, challenging his god; he felt they were in no
sense common men--neither those who had stabbed Sir John in the
Chartreuse of Seillon, nor those who had shot the bishop of Vannes
at the village of the Trinité.
And now, what was he to see? He was soon to know, for they had
ridden five hours and a half and the day was breaking.
Beyond the village of Tridon they turned across country; leaving
Vannes to the left, they reached Tréfléon. At Tréfléon, Cadoudal,
still followed by his major-general, Branche-d'Or, had found
Monte-à-l'assaut and Chante-en-hiver. He gave them further orders,
and continued on his way, bearing to the left and skirting the
edges of a little wood which lies between Grandchamp and Larré.
There Cadoudal halted, imitated, three separate times in succession,
the cry of an owl, and was presently surrounded by his three
A grayish light was spreading through the sky beyond Tréfléon
and Saint-Nolf; it was not the rising of the sun, but the first
rays of dawn. A heavy mist rose from the earth and prevented
the eye from seeing more than fifty feet beyond it.
Cadoudal seemed to be expecting news before risking himself further.
Suddenly, about five hundred paces distant, the crowing of a
cock was heard. Cadoudal pricked up his ears; his men looked at
each other and laughed.
The cock crowed again, but nearer.
"It is he," said Cadoudal; "answer him."
The howling of a dog came from within three feet of Roland, but
so perfectly imitated that the young man, although aware of what
it was, looked about him for the animal that was uttering such
lugubrious plaints. Almost at the same moment he saw a man coming
rapidly through the mist, his form growing more and more distinct
as he approached. The new-comer saw the two horsemen, and went
Cadoudal rode forward a few paces, putting his finger to his lips,
as if to request the man to speak low. The latter, therefore,
did not pause until he was close beside his general.
"Well, Fleur-d'épine," asked Georges, "have we got them?"
"Like a mouse in a trap; not one can re-enter Vannes, if you say
"I desire nothing better. How many are there?"
"One hundred men, commanded by the general himself."
"How many wagons?"
"When did they start?"
"They must be about a mile and three-quarters from here."
"What road have they taken?"
"Grandchamp to Vannes."
"So that, if I deploy from Meucon to Plescop--"
"You'll bar the way."
Cadoudal called his four lieutenants, Chante-en-hiver,
Monte-à-l'assaut, Fend-l'air, and La Giberne, to him, gave each
of them fifty men, and each with his men disappeared like shadows
in the heavy mist, giving the well-known hoot, as they vanished.
Cadoudal was left with a hundred men, Branche-d'Or and Fleur-d'épine.
He returned to Roland.
"Well, general," said the latter, "is everything satisfactory?"
"Yes, colonel, fairly so," replied the Chouan; "but you can judge
for yourself in half an hour."
"It will be difficult to judge of anything in that mist."
Cadoudal looked about him.
"It will lift in half an hour," said he. "Will you utilize the
time by eating a mouthful and drinking a glass?"
"Faith!" said the young man, "I must admit that the ride has
"I make a point," said Georges, "of eating the best breakfast
I can before fighting."
"Then you are going to fight?"
"I think so."
"Why, the Republicans, and as we have to do with General Hatry,
I doubt if he surrenders without resistance."
"Do the Republicans know they are going to fight you?"
"They haven't the least idea."
"So it is to be a surprise?"
"Not exactly, inasmuch as when the fog lifts they will see us
as soon as we see them." Then, turning to the man who seemed
to be in charge of the provisions, Cadoudal added, "Brise-Bleu,
is there anything for breakfast?"
Brise-Bleu nodded affirmatively, went into the wood, and came out
dragging after him a donkey loaded with two baskets. He spread a
cloak on a rise of the ground, and placed on it a roast chicken,
a bit of cold salt pork, some bread and buckwheat cakes. This
time Brise-Bleu had provided luxury in the shape of a bottle
of wine and a glass.
Cadoudal motioned Roland to the table and the improvised repast.
The young man sprang from his horse, throwing the bridle to a
Chouan. Cadoudal did likewise.
"Now," said the latter, turning to his men, "you have half an
hour to do as we do. Those who have not breakfasted in half an
hour are notified that they must fight on empty stomachs."
The invitation seemed equivalent to an order, so promptly and
precisely was it executed. Every man pulled from his bag or his
pocket a bit of bread or a buckwheat cake, and followed the example
of his general, who had already divided the chicken between Roland
and himself. As there was but one glass, both officers shared it.
While they were thus breakfasting, side by side, like two friends
on a hunt, the sun rose, and, as Cadoudal had predicted, the
mist became less and less dense. Soon the nearest trees could
be distinguished; then the line of the woods, stretching to the
right from Meucon to Grand-champ, while to the left the plain of
Plescop, threaded by a rivulet, sloped gradually toward Vannes.
This natural declivity of the ground became more and more perceptible
as it neared the ocean.
On the road from Grandchamp to Plescop, a line of wagons were
now visible, the tail of which was still hidden in the woods.
This line was motionless; evidently some unforeseen obstacle
had stopped it.
In fact, about a quarter of a mile before the leading wagon they
perceived the two hundred Chouans, under Monte-à-l'assaut,
Chante-en-hiver, Fend-l'air, and Giberne, barring the way.
The Republicans, inferior in number--we said that there were but
a hundred--had halted and were awaiting the complete dispersion
of the fog to determine the number and character of the men they
were about to meet. Men and wagons were now in a triangle, of
which Cadoudal and his hundred men formed one of the angles.
At sight of this small number of men thus surrounded by triple
forces, and of the well-known uniform, of which the color had
given its name to the Republican forces, Roland sprang hastily to
his feet. As for Cadoudal, he remained where he was, nonchalantly
finishing his meal. Of the hundred men surrounding the general,
not one seemed to perceive the spectacle that was now before their
eyes; it seemed almost as if they were waiting for Cadoudal's
order to look at it.
Roland had only to cast his eyes on the Republicans to see that
they were lost. Cadoudal watched the various emotions that succeeded
each other on the young man's face.
"Well," asked the Chouan, after a moment's silence, "do you think
my dispositions well taken?"
"You might better say your precautions, general," replied Roland,
with a sarcastic smile.
"Isn't it the First Consul's way to make the most of his advantages
when he gets them?" asked Cadoudal.
Roland bit his lips; then, instead of replying to the royalist
leader's question, he said: "General, I have a favor to ask which
I hope you will not refuse."
"What is it?"
"Permission to let me go and be killed with my comrades."
Cadoudal rose. "I expected that request," he said.
"Then you will grant it?" cried Roland, his eyes sparkling with joy.
"Yes; but, first, I have a favor to ask of you," said the royalist
leader, with supreme dignity.
"Ask it, sir."
"To bear my flag of truce to General Hatry."
"For what purpose?"
"I have several proposals to make to him before the fight begins."
"I presume that among those proposals which you deign to intrust
to me you do not include that of laying down his arms?"
"On the contrary, colonel, you understand that that is the first
of my proposals."
"General Hatry will refuse it."
"That is probable."
"Then I shall give him his choice between two others, either
of which he can, I think, accept without forfeiting his honor."
"What are they?"
"I will tell you in due time. Begin with the first."
"General Hatry and his hundred men are surrounded by a triple
force. I offer them their lives; but they must lay down their
arms, and make oath not to serve again in the Vendée for five
Roland shook his head.
"Better that than to see his men annihilated."
"Maybe so; but he would prefer to have his men annihilated, and
be annihilated with them."
"Don't you think," asked Cadoudal, laughing, "that it might be
as well, in any case, to ask him?"
"True," said Roland.
"Well, colonel, be so good as to mount your horse, make yourself
known to him, and deliver my proposal."
"Very well," replied Roland.
"The colonel's horse," said Cadoudal, motioning to the Chouan
who was watching it. The man led it up. The young man sprang
upon it, and rapidly covered the distance which separated him
from the convoy.
A group of men were gathered on its flank, evidently composed of
General Hatry and his officers. Roland rode toward them, scarcely
three gunshots distant from the Chouans. General Hatry's astonishment
was great when he saw an officer in the Republican uniform
approaching him. He left the group and advanced three paces to
meet the messenger.
Roland made himself known, related how he came to be among the
Whites, and transmitted Cadoudal's proposal to General Hatry.
As he has foreseen, the latter refused it. Roland returned to
Cadoudal with a proud and joyful heart. "He refuses!" he cried,
as soon as his voice could be heard.
Cadoudal gave a nod that showed he was not surprised by the refusal.
"Then, in that case," he answered, "go back with my second
proposition. I don't wish to have anything to reproach myself
with in answering to such a judge of honor as you."
Roland bowed. "What is the second proposition?"
"General Hatry shall meet me in the space that separates the two
troops, he shall carry the same arms as I--that is, his sabre and
pistols--and the matter shall be decided between us. If I kill
him, his men are to submit to the conditions already named, for
we cannot take prisoners; if he kills me his men shall pass free
and be allowed to reach Vannes safely. Come, I hope that's a
proposition you would accept, colonel?"
"I would accept it myself," replied Roland.
"Yes," exclaimed Cadoudal, "but you are not General Hatry. Content
yourself with being a negotiator this time, and if this proposition,
which, if I were he, I wouldn't let escape me, does not please
him, come to me. I'm a good fellow, and I'll make him a third."
Roland rode off a second time; his coming was awaited by the
Republicans with visible impatience. He transmitted the message
to General Hatry.
"Citizen," replied the general, "I must render account of my
conduct to the First Consul. You are his aide-de-camp, and I
charge you on your return to Paris to bear testimony on my behalf
to him. What would you do in my place? Whatever you would do,
that I shall do."
Roland started; his face assumed the grave expression of a man
who is arguing a point of honor in his own mind. Then, at the
end of a few seconds, he said: "General, I should refuse."
"Your reasons, citizen?" demanded the general.
"The chances of a duel are problematic; you cannot subject the
fate of a hundred brave men to a doubtful chance. In an affair
like this, where all are concerned, every man had better defend
his own skin as best he can."
"Is that your opinion, colonel?"
"On my honor."
"It is also mine; carry my reply to the royalist general."
Roland galloped back to Cadoudal, and delivered General Hatry's
Cadoudal smiled. "I expected it," he said.
"You couldn't have expected it, because it was I who advised him
to make it."
"You thought differently a few moments ago."
"Yes; but you yourself reminded me that I was not General Hatry.
Come, what is your third proposition?" said Roland impatiently;
for he began to perceive, or rather he had perceived from the
beginning, that the noble part in the affair belonged to the
"My third proposition," said Cadoudal, "is not a proposition
but an order; an order for two hundred of my men to withdraw.
General Hatry has one hundred men; I will keep one hundred. My
Breton forefathers were accustomed to fight foot to foot, breast
to breast, man to man, and oftener one to three than three to
one. If General Hatry is victorious, he can walk over our bodies
and tranquilly enter Vannes; if he is defeated, he cannot say
it is by numbers. Go, Monsieur de Montrevel, and remain with
your friends. I give them thus the advantage of numbers, for you
alone are worth ten men."
Roland raised his hat.
"What are you doing, sir?" demanded Cadoudal.
"I always bow to that which is grand, general; I bow to you."
"Come, colonel," said Cadoudal, "a last glass of wine; let each
of us drink to what we love best, to that which we grieve to
leave behind, to that we hope to meet in heaven."
Taking the bottle and the one glass, he filled it half full,
and offered it to Roland. "We have but one glass, Monsieur de
Montrevel; drink first."
"Because, in the first place, you are my guest, and also because
there is a proverb that whoever drinks after another knows his
thought." Then, he added, laughing: "I want to know your thought,
Monsieur de Montrevel."
Roland emptied the glass and returned it to Cadoudal. The latter
filled his glass half full, as he bad done for Roland, and emptied
it in turn.
"Well," asked Roland, "now do you know my thought, general?"
"My thought," said Roland, with his usual frankness, "is that
you are a brave man, general. I shall feel honored if, at this
moment when we are going to fight against each other, you will
give me your hand."
The two young men clasped hands, more like friends parting for a
long absence than two enemies about to meet on the battlefield.
There was a simple grandeur, full of majesty, in this action.
Each raised his hat.
"Good luck!" said Roland to Cadoudal; "but allow me to doubt
it. I must even confess that it is from my lips, not my heart."
"God keep you, sir," said Cadoudal, "and I hope that my wish
will be realized. It is the honest expression of my thoughts."
"What is to be the signal that you are ready?" inquired Roland.
"A musket shot fired in the air, to which you will reply in the
"Very good, general," replied Roland. And putting his horse to
a gallop, he crossed the space between the royalist general and
the Republican general for the third time.
"Friends," said Cadoudal, pointing to Roland, "do you see that
All eyes were bent upon Roland. "Yes," came from every mouth.
"He came with a safe-guard from our brothers in the Midi; his life
is sacred to you; he may be captured, but it must be living--not
a hair of his head must be touched."
"Very good, general," replied the Chouans.
"And now, my friends, remember that you are the sons of those
thirty Bretons who fought the thirty British between Ploermel
and Josselin, ten leagues from here, and conquered them." Then,
in a low voice, he added with a sigh, "Unhappily we have not
to do with the British this time."
The fog had now lifted completely, and, as usually happens, a
few rays of the wintry sun tinged the plain of Plescop with a
It was easy therefore to distinguish the movements of the two
troops. While Roland was returning to the Republicans, Branche-d'Or
galloped toward the two hundred men who were blocking the way.
He had hardly spoken to Cadoudal's four lieutenants before a
hundred men were seen to wheel to the right and a hundred more
to wheel to the left and march in opposite directions, one toward
Plumergat, the other toward Saint-Ave, leaving the road open.
Each body halted three-quarters of a mile down the road, grounded
arms and remained motionless. Branche-d'Or returned to Cadoudal.
"Have you any special orders to give me, general?" he asked.
"Yes, one," answered Cadoudal, "take eight men and follow me.
When you see the young Republican, with whom I breakfasted, fall
under his horse, fling yourself upon him, you and your eight men,
before he has time to free himself, and take him prisoner."
"You know that I must have him safe and sound."
"That's understood, general"
"Choose your eight men. Monsieur de Montrevel once captured, and
his parole given, you can do as you like."
"Suppose he won't give his parole?"
"Then you must surround him so that he can't escape, and watch
him till the fight is over."
"Very well," said Branche-d'Or, heaving a sigh; "but it'll be
a little hard to stand by with folded arms while the others are
having their fun."
"Pooh! who knows?" said Cadoudal; "there'll probably be enough
for every body."
Then, casting a glance over the plain and seeing his own men
stationed apart, and the Republicans massed for battle, he cried:
They brought one. Cadoudal raised it above his head and fired
in the air. Almost at the same moment, a shot fired in the same
manner from the midst of the Republicans answered like an echo
to that of Cadoudal.
Two drums beating the advance and a bugle were heard. Cadoudal
rose in his stirrups.
"Children," he cried, "have you all said your morning prayers?"
"Yes, yes!" answered almost every voice. "If any of you forgot
them, or did not have time, let them pray now."
Five or six peasants knelt down and prayed.
The drums and bugle drew nearer.
"General, general," cried several voices impatiently, "they are
The general motioned to the kneeling peasants.
"True," replied the impatient ones.
Those who prayed rose one by one, according as their prayers
had been long or short. By the time they were all afoot, the
Republicans had crossed nearly one-third of the distance. They
marched, bayonets fixed, in three ranks, each rank three abreast.
Roland rode at the head of the first rank, General Hatry between
the first and second. Both were easily recognized, being the
only men on horseback. Among the Chouans, Cadoudal was the only
rider, Branche-d'Or having dismounted to take command of the
eight men who were to follow Georges.
"General," said a voice, "the prayer is ended, and every one is
Cadoudal looked around him to make sure it was true; then he cried
in a loud voice: "Forward! Enjoy yourselves, my lads!"
This permission, which to Vendéans and Chouans, was equivalent to
sounding a charge, was scarcely given before the Chouans spread
over the fields to cries of "Vive le roi!" waving their hats
with one hand and their guns with the other.
Instead of keeping in rank like the Republicans, they scattered
like sharpshooters, forming an immense crescent, of which Georges
and his horse were the centre.
A moment later the Republicans were flanked and the firing began.
Cadoudal's men were nearly all poachers, that is to say, excellent
marksmen, armed with English carbines, able to carry twice the
length of the army musket. Though the first shots fired might
have seemed wide of range, these messengers of death nevertheless
brought down several men in the Republican ranks.
"Forward!" cried the general.
The soldiers marched on, bayonets fixed; but in a few moments
there was no enemy before them. Cadoudal's hundred men had turned
skirmishers; they had separated, and fifty men were harassing
both of the enemy's flanks. General Hatry ordered his men to
wheel to the right and left. Then came the order: "Fire!"
Two volleys followed with the precision and unanimity of well
disciplined troops; but they were almost without result, for
the Republicans were firing upon scattered men. Not so with the
Chouans, who fired on a mass; with them every shot told.
Roland saw the disadvantage of the position. He looked around
and, amid the smoke, distinguished Cadoudal, erect and motionless
as an equestrian statue. He understood that the royalist leader
was waiting for him.
With a cry he spurred his horse toward him. As if to save him part
of the way, Cadoudal put his horse to a gallop. But a hundred feet
from Cadoudal he drew rein. "Attention!" he said to Branche-d'Or
and his companions.
"Don't be alarmed, general; here we are," said Branche-d'Or.
Cadoudal drew a pistol from his holster and cocked it. Roland,
sabre in hand, was charging, crouched on his horse's neck. When
they were twenty paces apart, Cadoudal slowly raised his hand
in Roland's direction. At ten paces he fired.
The horse Roland was riding had a white star on its forehead.
The ball struck the centre of that star, and the horse, mortally
wounded, rolled over with its rider at Cadoudal's feet.
Cadoudal put spurs to his own horse and jumped both horse and
Branche-d'Or and his men were ready. They sprang, like a pack
of jaguars, upon Roland, entangled under the body of his horse.
The young man dropped his sword and tried to seize his pistols,
but before he could lay hand upon the holsters two men had him
by the arms, while the four others dragged his horse from between
his legs. The thing was done with such unanimity that it was
easy to see the manoeuvre had been planned.
Roland roared with rage. Branche-d'Or came up to him and put his
hat in his hand.
"I do not surrender!" shouted Roland.
"Useless to do so, Monsieur de Montrevel," replied Branche-d'Or
with the utmost politeness.
"What do you mean?" demanded Roland, exhausting his strength in
a struggle as desperate as it was useless.
"Because you are captured, sir."
It was so true that there could be no answer.
"Then kill me!" cried Roland.
"We don't want to kill you, sir," replied Branche-d'Or.
"Then what do you want?"
"Give us your parole not to fight any more, and you are free."
"Never!" exclaimed Roland.
"Excuse me, Monsieur de Montrevel," said Branche-d'Or, "but that
is not loyal!"
"What!" shrieked Roland, in a fury, "not loyal! You insult me,
villain, because you know I can't defend myself or punish you."
"I am not a villain, and I didn't insult you, Monsieur de Montrevel;
but I do say that by not giving your word, you deprive the general
of nine men, who might be useful to him and who are obliged to
stay here to guard you. That's not the way the Big Round Head
acted toward you. He had two hundred men more than you, and he
sent them away. Now we are only eighty-nine against one hundred."
A flame crossed Roland's face; then almost as suddenly he turned
pale as death.
"You are right, Branche-d'Or," he replied. "Succor or no succor,
I surrender. You and your men can go and fight with your comrades."
The Chouans gave a cry of joy, let go their hold of Roland, and
rushed toward the Republicans, brandishing their hats and muskets,
and shouting: "Vive le roi!"
Roland, freed from their grip, but disarmed physically by his
fall, morally by his parole, went to the little eminence, still
covered by the cloak which had served as a tablecloth for their
breakfast, and sat down. From there he could see the whole combat;
not a detail was lost upon him.
Cadoudal sat erect upon his horse amid fire and smoke, like the
Demon of War, invulnerable and implacable.
Here and there the bodies of a dozen or more Chouans lay stretched
upon the sod. But it was evident that the Republicans, still
massed together, had lost double that number. Wounded men dragged
themselves across the open space, meeting, rearing their bodies
like mangled snakes, to fight, the Republicans with their bayonets,
and the Chouans with their knives. Those of the wounded Chouans
who were too far off to fight their wounded enemies hand to hand,
reloaded their guns, and, struggling to their knees, fired and
On either side the struggle was pitiless, incessant, furious;
civil war--that is war without mercy or compassion--waved its
torch above the battlefield.
Cadoudal rode his horse around these living breastworks, firing
at twenty paces, sometimes his pistols, sometimes a musket, which
he discharged, cast aside, and picked up again reloaded. At each
discharge a man fell. The third time he made this round General
Hatry honored him with a fusillade. He disappeared in the flame
and smoke, and Roland saw him go down, he and his horse, as if
annihilated. Ten or a dozen Republicans sprang from the ranks
and met as many Chouans; the struggle was terrible, hand to hand,
body to body, but the Chouans, with their knives, were sure of
Suddenly Cadoudal appeared, erect, a pistol in each hand; it
was the death of two men; two men fell. Then through the gap
left by these ten or twelve he flung himself forward with thirty
men. He had picked up an army musket, and, using it like a club,
he brought down a man with each blow. He broke his way through
the battalion, and reappeared at the other side. Then, like a boar
which returns upon the huntsman he has ripped up and trampled, he
rushed back through the gaping wound and widened it. From that
moment all was over.
General Hatry rallied a score of men, and, with bayonets down,
they fell upon the circle that enveloped them. He marched at
the head of his soldiers on foot; his horse had been killed.
Ten men had fallen before the circle was broken, but at last he
was beyond it. The Chouans wanted to pursue them, but Cadoudal,
in a voice of thunder, called them back.
"You should not have allowed him to pass," he cried, "but having
passed he is free to retreat."
The Chouans obeyed with the religious faith they placed in the
words of their chief.
"And now," said Cadoudal, "cease firing; no more dead; make
The Chouans drew together and surrounded the heaps of dead, and
the few living men, more or less wounded, who lay among the dead.
Surrendering was still fighting in this fatal war, where on both
sides the prisoners were shot--on the one side, because Chouans
and Vendéans were considered brigands; on the other, because
they knew not where to put the captives.
The Republicans threw their guns away, that they might not be
forced to surrender them. When their captors approached them
every cartridge-box was open; every man had fired his last shot.
Cadoudal walked back to Roland.
During the whole of this desperate struggle the young man had
remained on the mound. With his eyes fixed on the battle, his hair
damp with sweat, his breast heaving, he waited for the result.
Then, when he saw the day was lost, his head fell upon his hands,
and he still sat on, his forehead bowed to the earth.
Cadoudal reached him before he seemed to hear the sound of footsteps.
He touched the young man's shoulder. Roland raised his head slowly
without attempting to hide the two great tears that were rolling
down his cheeks.
"General," said Roland, "do with me what you will. I am your
"I can't make the First Consul's ambassador a prisoner," replied
Cadoudal, laughing, "but I can ask him to do me a service."
"Command me, general."
"I need a hospital for the wounded, and a prison for prisoners;
will you take the Republican soldiers, wounded and prisoners,
back to Vannes."
"What do you mean, general?" exclaimed Roland.
"I give them, or rather I confide them to you. I regret that
your horse was killed; so is mine. But there is still that of
Brise-Bleu; accept it."
The young man made a motion of rejection.
"Until you can obtain another, of course," added Cadoudal, bowing.
Roland felt that he must put himself, at least in simplicity,
on a level with the man with whom he was dealing.
"Shall I see you again, general?" he asked, rising.
"I doubt it, sir. My operations call me to the coast near Port-Louis;
your duty recalls you to the Luxembourg."
"What shall I tell the First Consul, general?"
"What you have seen, sir. He must judge between the Abbé Bernier's
diplomacy and that of Georges Cadoudal."
"After what I have seen, sir, I doubt if you ever have need of
me," said Roland; "but in any case remember that you have a friend
near the First Consul."
And he held out his hand to Cadoudal. The royalist took it with
the same frankness and freedom he had shown before the battle.
"Farewell, Monsieur de Montrevel," said he, "I need not ask you
to justify General Hatry. A defeat like that is fully as glorious
as a victory."
During this time Brise-Bleu's horse had been led up for the
He sprang into the saddle.
"By the bye," said Cadoudal, "as you go through La Roche-Bernard,
just inquire what has happened to citizen Thomas Millière."
"He is dead," said a voice.
Coeur-de-Roi and his four men, covered with mud and sweat, had
just arrived, but too late for the battle.
Roland cast a last glance at the battlefield, sighed, and, waving
a last farewell to Cadoudal, started at a gallop across the fields
to await, on the road to Vannes, the wagon-load of wounded and
the prisoners he was asked to deliver to General Hatry.
Cadoudal had given a crown of six sous to each man.
Roland could not help reflecting that the gift was made with
the money of the Directory sent to the West by Morgan and the
Companions of Jehu.
A PROPOSAL OF MARRIAGE
Roland's first visit on arriving in Paris was to the First Consul.
He brought him the twofold news of the pacification of the Vendée,
and the increasingly bitter insurrection in Brittany.
Bonaparte knew Roland; consequently the triple narrative of Thomas
Millière's murder, the execution of Bishop Audrein, and the fight
at Grandchamp, produced a deep impression upon him. There was,
moreover, in the young man's manner a sombre despair in which he
could not be mistaken.
Roland was miserable over this lost opportunity to get himself
killed. An unknown power seemed to watch over him, carrying him
safe and sound through dangers which resulted fatally to others.
Sir John had found twelve judges and a death-warrant, where he
had seen but a phantom, invulnerable, it is true, but inoffensive.
He blamed himself bitterly for singling out Cadoudal in the fight,
thus exposing himself to a pre-arranged plan of capture, instead
of flinging himself into the fray and killing or being killed.
The First Consul watched him anxiously as he talked; the longing
for death still lingered in his mind, a longing he hoped to cure
by this return to his native land and the endearments of his
He praised and defended General Hatry, but, just and impartial
as a soldier should be, he gave full credit to Cadoudal for the
courage and generosity the royalist general had displayed.
Bonaparte listened gravely, almost sadly; ardent as he was for
foreign war with its glorious halo, his soul revolted at the
internecine strife which drained the life-blood of the nation
and rent its bowels. It was a case in which, to his thinking,
negotiation should be substituted for war. But how negotiate
with a man like Cadoudal?
Bonaparte was not unaware of his own personal seductions when he
chose to exercise them. He resolved to see Cadoudal, and without
saying anything on the subject to Roland, he intended to make use
of him for the interview when the time came. In the meantime he
wanted to see if Brune, in whose talent he had great confidence,
would be more successful than his predecessors.
He dismissed Roland, after telling him of his mother's arrival
and her installation in the little house in the Rue de la Victoire.
Roland sprang into a coach and was driven there at once. He found
Madame de Montrevel as happy and as proud as a woman and a mother
could be. Edouard had gone, the day before, to the Prytanée Français,
and she herself was preparing to return to Amélie, whose health
continued to give her much anxiety.
As for Sir John, he was not only out of danger, but almost well
again. He was in Paris, had called upon Madame de Montrevel,
and, finding that she had gone with Edouard to the Prytanée,
he had left his card. It bore his address, Hôtel Mirabeau, Rue
It was eleven o'clock, Sir John's breakfast hour, and Roland had
every chance of finding him at that hour. He got back into his
carriage, and ordered the coachman to stop at the Hôtel Mirabeau.
He found Sir John sitting before an English breakfast, a thing
rarely seen in those days, drinking large cups of tea and eating
As soon as the Englishman saw Roland he gave a cry of joy and
ran to meet him. Roland himself had acquired a deep affection
for that exceptional nature, where the noblest qualities of the
heart seemed striving to hide themselves beneath national
Sir John was pale and thin, but in other respects he was well. His
wound had completely healed, and except for a slight oppression,
which was diminishing daily and would soon disappear altogether,
he had almost recovered his former health. He now welcomed Roland
with a tenderness scarcely to be expected from that reserved
nature, declaring that the joy he felt in seeing him again was
all he wanted for his complete recovery.
He begged Roland to share the meal, telling him to order his own
breakfast, a la Française. Roland accepted. Like all soldiers
who had fought the hard wars of the Revolution, when bread was
often lacking, Roland cared little for what he ate; he had acquired
the habit of eating whatever was put before him as a precaution
against the days when there might be nothing at all. Sir John's
attention in asking him to make a French breakfast was scarcely
noticed by him at all.
But what Roland did notice was Sir John's preoccupation of mind.
It was evident that Sir John had something on his lips which he
hesitated to utter. Roland thought he had better help him.
So, when breakfast was nearly over, Roland, with his usual frankness,
which almost bordered upon brutality at times, leaned his elbows
on the table, settled his chin in his hands, and said: "Well, my
dear Sir John, you have something to say to your friend Roland
that you don't dare put into words."
Sir John started, and, from pale as he was, turned crimson.
"Confound it!" continued Roland, "it must be hard to get out;
but, Sir John, if you have many things to ask me, I know but few
that I have the right to refuse you. So, go on; I am listening."
And Roland closed his eyes as if to concentrate all his attention
on what Sir John was about to say. But the matter was evidently,
from Sir John's point of view, so extremely difficult to make
known, that at the end of a dozen seconds, finding that Sir John
was still silent, Roland opened his eyes.
The Englishman was pale again; but this time he was paler than
before. Roland held out his hand to him.
"Why," he said, "I see you want to make some compliment about
the way you were treated at the Château des Noires-Fontaines."
"Precisely, my friend; for the happiness or misery of my life
will date from my sojourn at the château."
Roland looked fixedly at Sir John. "The deuce!" he exclaimed,
"can I be so fortunate--" Then he stopped, remembering that what
he was about to say was most unconventional from the social point
"Oh!" exclaimed Sir John, "my dear Roland, finish what you were
"You wish it?"
"I implore you."
"But if I am mistaken; if I should say something nonsensical."
"My friend, my friend, go on."
"Well, as I was saying, my lord, can I be so fortunate as to find
your lordship in love with my sister?"
Sir John gave a cry of joy, and with a rapid movement, of which
so phlegmatic a man might have been thought incapable, he threw
himself in Roland's arms.
"Your sister is an angel, my dear Roland," he exclaimed, "and
I love her with all my heart."
"Are you entirely free to do so, my lord?"
"Entirely. For the last twelve years, as I told you, I have had
my fortune under my own control; it amounts to twenty-five thousand
pounds sterling a year."
"Too much, my dear fellow, for a woman who can only bring you
fifty thousand francs."
"Oh!" said the Englishman, with that national accent that returned
to him occasionally in moments of strong excitement, "if I must
get rid of a part of it, I can do so."
"No," replied Roland, laughing, "that's not necessary. You're rich;
it's unfortunate, but what's to be done?--No, that's not the
question. Do you love my sister?"
"I adore her."
"And she," resumed Roland, "does she love you?"
"Of course you understand," returned Sir John, "that I have not
asked her. I was bound, my dear Roland, to speak to you first,
and if the matter were agreeable, to beg you to plead my cause
with your mother. After I have obtained the consent of both, I
shall make my offer. Or rather, you will make it for me, for I
should never dare."
"Then I am the first to receive your confidence?"
"You are my best friend, and it ought to be so."
"Well, my dear friend, as far as I am concerned, your suit is
"Your mother and sister remain."
"They will be one. You understand that my mother will leave Amélie
free to make her own choice; and I need not tell you that if
it falls upon you she will be delighted. But there is a person
whom you have forgotten."
"Who is that?" said Sir John, in the tone of a man who, having
weighed all chances for and against, believes he knows them all,
and is met by an obstacle he has never thought of.
"The First Consul," said Roland.
"God--" ejaculated the Englishman, swallowing the last words of
the national oath.
"He spoke to me just before I left for the Vendée of my sister's
marriage," continued Roland; "saying that it no longer concerned
my mother and myself, for he would take charge of it."
"Then," said Sir John, "I am lost."
"The First Consul does not like the English."
"Say rather that the English do not like the First Consul."
"But who will present my wishes to the First Consul?"
"And will you speak of them as agreeable to yourself?"
"I'll turn you into a dove of peace between the two nations,"
said Roland, rising.
"Oh! thank you," cried Sir john, seizing the young man's hand.
Then he added, regretfully, "Must you leave me?"
"My friend, I have only a few hours' leave. I have given one
to my mother, two to you, and I owe one to your friend Edouard.
I want to kiss him and ask his masters to let him scuffle as he
likes with his comrades. Then I must get back to the Luxembourg."
"Well, take him my compliments, and tell him I have ordered another
pair of pistols for him, so that the next time he is attacked by
bandits he needn't use the conductor's."
Roland looked at Sir John.
"Now, what is it?" he asked.
"What! Don't you know?"
"No. What is it I don't know?"
"Something that nearly killed our poor Amélie?"
"The attack on the diligence."
"But what diligence?"
"The one which your mother was in."
"The diligence my mother was in?"
"The diligence my mother was in was attacked?"
"You have seen Madame de Montrevel, and she didn't tell you?"
"Not a word about that, anyway."
"Well, my dear Edouard proved a hero; as no one else defended
the coach, he did. He took the conductor's pistols and fired."
"Brave boy!" exclaimed Roland.
"Yes, but, unluckily or luckily the conductor had taken the
precaution to remove the bullets. Edouard was praised and petted
by the Companions of Jehu as the bravest of the brave; but he
neither killed nor wounded them."
"Are you sure of what you are telling me?"
"I tell you your sister almost died of fright."
"Very good," said Roland.
"How very good?" exclaimed Sir John.
"I mean, all the more reason why I should see Edouard."
"What makes you say that."
"Tell me what it is."
"Faith! no. My plans don't turn out well for you."
"But you know, my dear Roland, that if there are any reprisals
"I shall make them for both. You are in love, my dear fellow;
live in your love."
"You promise me your support?"
"That's understood! I am most anxious to call you brother."
"Are you tired of calling me friend?"
"Faith, yes; it is too little."
They pressed each other's hands and parted.
A quarter of an hour later Roland reached the Prytanée Français,
which stood then on the present site of the Lyceum of Louis-
le-Grand--that is to say, at the head of the Rue Saint-Jacques,
behind the Sorbonne. At the first words of the director, Roland
saw that his young brother had been especially recommended to
the authorities. The boy was sent for. Edouard flung himself
into the arms of his "big brother" with that passionate adoration
he had for him.
After the first embraces were over, Roland inquired about the
stoppage of the diligence. Madame de Montrevel had been chary
of mentioning it; Sir John had been sober in statement, but not
so Edouard. It was his Iliad, his very own. He related it with
every detail--Jérôme's connivance with the bandits, the pistols
loaded with powder only, his mother's fainting-fit, the attention
paid to her by those who had caused it, his own name known to
the bandits, the fall of the mask from the face of the one who
was restoring his mother, his certainty that she must have seen
the man's face.
Roland was above all struck with this last particular. Then the
boy related their audience with the First Consul, and told how
the latter had kissed and petted him, and finally recommended
him to the director of the Prytanée Français.
Roland learned from the child all that he wished to know, and
as it took but five minutes to go from the Rue Saint Jacques
to the Luxembourg, he was at the palace in that time.
SCULPTURE AND PAINTING
When Roland returned to the Luxembourg, the clock of the palace
marked one hour and a quarter after mid-day.
The First Consul was working with Bourrienne.
If we were merely writing a novel, we should hasten to its close,
and in order to get there more expeditiously we should neglect
certain details, which, we are told, historical figures can do
without. That is not our opinion. From the day we first put pen
to paper--now some thirty years ago--whether our thought were
concentrated on a drama, or whether it spread itself into a novel,
we have had a double end--to instruct and to amuse.
And we say instruct first, for amusement has never been to our
mind anything but a mask for instruction. Have we succeeded? We
think so. Before long we shall have covered with our narratives
an enormous period of time; between the "Comtesse de Salisbury"
and the "Comte de Monte-Cristo" five centuries and a half are
comprised. Well, we assert that we have taught France as much
history about those five centuries and a half as any historian.
More than that; although our opinions are well known; although,
under the Bourbons of the elder branch as under the Bourbons
of the younger branch, under the Republic as under the present
government, we have always proclaimed them loudly, we do not
believe that that opinion has been unduly manifested in our books
We admire the Marquis de Posa in Schiller's "Don Carlos"; but, in
his stead, we should not have anticipated the spirit of that age
to the point of placing a philosopher of the eighteenth century
among the heroes of the sixteenth, an encyclopedist at the court
of Philippe II. Therefore, just as we have been--in literary
parlance--monarchical under the Monarchy, republican under the
Republic, we are to-day reconstructionists under the Consulate.
That does not prevent our thought from hovering above men, above
their epoch, and giving to each the share of good and evil they
do. Now that share no one, except God, has the right to award
from his individual point of view. The kings of Egypt who, at
the moment they passed into the unknown, were judged upon the
threshold of their tombs, were not judged by a man, but by a
people. That is why it is said: "The judgment of a people is
the judgment of God."
Historian, novelist, poet, dramatic author, we are nothing more
than the foreman of a jury who impartially sums up the arguments
and leaves the jury to give their verdict. The book is the summing
up; the readers are the jury.
That is why, having to paint one of the most gigantic figures,
not only of modern times but of all times; having to paint the
period of his transition, that is to say the moment when Bonaparte
transformed himself into Napoleon, the general into an emperor--that
is why we say, in the fear of becoming unjust, we abandon
interpretations and substitute facts.
We are not of those who say with Voltaire that, "no one is a hero
to his valet."
It may be that the valet is near-sighted or envious--two infirmities
that resemble each other more closely than people think. We maintain
that a hero may become a kind man, but a hero, for being kind,
is none the less a hero.
What is a hero in the eyes of the public? A man whose genius is
momentarily greater than his heart. What is a hero in private
life? A man whose heart is momentarily greater than his genius.
Historians, judge the genius!
People, judge the heart!
Who judged Charlemagne? The historians. Who judged Henri IV.?
The people. Which, in your opinion, was the most righteously
Well, in order to render just judgment, and compel the court
of appeals, which is none other than posterity, to confirm
contemporaneous judgments, it is essential not to light up one
side only of the figure we depict, but to walk around it, and
wherever the sunlight does not reach, to hold a torch, or even
Now, let us return to Bonaparte.
He was working, as we said, with Bourrienne. Let us inquire into
the usual division of the First Consul's time.
He rose at seven or eight in the morning, and immediately called
one of his secretaries, preferably Bourrienne, and worked with him
until ten. At ten, breakfast was announced; Josephine, Hortense
and Eugène either waited or sat down to table with the family,
that is with the aides-de-camp on duty and Bourrienne. After
breakfast he talked with the usual party, or the invited guests,
if there were any; one hour was devoted to this intercourse,
which was generally shared by the First Consul's two brothers,
Lucien and Joseph, Regnault de Saint-Jean-d'Angely, Boulay (de
la Meurthe), Monge, Berthollet, Laplace and Arnault. Toward noon
Cambacérès arrived. As a general thing Bonaparte devoted half
an hour to his chancellor; then suddenly, without warning, he
would rise and say: "Au revoir, Josephine! au revoir, Hortense!
Come, Bourrienne, let us go to work."
This speech, which recurred almost regularly in the same words,
was no sooner uttered than Bonaparte left the salon and returned
to his study. There, no system of work was adopted; it might be
some urgent matter or merely a caprice. Either Bonaparte dictated
or Bourrienne read, after which the First Consul went to the
In the earlier months of the Consulate, he was obliged to cross
the courtyard of the little Luxembourg to reach the council-chamber,
which, if the weather were rainy, put him in bad humor; but toward
the end of December he had the courtyard covered; and from that
time he almost always returned to his study singing. Bonaparte
sang almost as false as Louis XV.
As soon as he was back he examined the work he had ordered done,
signed his letters, and stretched himself out in his armchair,
the arms of which he stabbed with his penknife as he talked.
If he was not inclined to talk, he reread the letters of the
day before, or the pamphlets of the day, laughing at intervals
with the hearty laugh of a great child. Then suddenly, as one
awakening from a dream, he would spring to his feet and cry out:
Then he would sketch out the plan for some building to be erected,
or dictate some one of those vast projects which have amazed--let
us say rather, terrified the world.
At five o'clock he dined; after dinner the First Consul ascended
to Josephine's apartments, where he usually received the visits
of the ministers, and particularly that of the minister of foreign
affairs, M. de Talleyrand. At midnight, sometimes earlier, but
never later, he gave the signal for retiring by saying, brusquely:
"Let us go to bed."
The next day, at seven in the morning, the same life began over
again, varied only by unforeseen incidents.
After these details of the personal habits of the great genius
we are trying to depict under his first aspect, his personal
portrait ought, we think, to come.
Bonaparte, First Consul, has left fewer indications of his personal
appearance than Napoleon, Emperor. Now, as nothing less resembles
the Emperor of 1812 than the First Consul of 1800; let us endeavor,
if possible, to sketch with a pen those features which the brush
has never fully portrayed, that countenance which neither bronze
nor marble has been able to render. Most of the painters and
sculptors who flourished during this illustrious period of art--Gros,
David, Prud'hon, Girodet and Bosio--have endeavored to transmit to
posterity the features of the Man of Destiny, at the different
epochs when the vast providential vistas which beckoned him first
revealed themselves. Thus, we have portraits of Bonaparte,
commander-in-chief, Bonaparte, First Consul, and Napoleon, Emperor;
and although some painters and sculptors have caught more or less
successfully the type of his face, it may be said that there
does not exist, either of the general, the First Consul, or the
emperor, a single portrait or bust which perfectly resembles him.
It was not within the power of even genius to triumph over an
impossibility. During the first part of Bonaparte's life it was
possible to paint or chisel Bonaparte's protuberant skull, his
brow furrowed by the sublime line of thought, his pale elongated
face, his granite complexion, and the meditative character of his
countenance. During the second part of his life it was possible to
paint or to chisel his broadened forehead, his admirably defined
eyebrows, his straight nose, his close-pressed lips, his chin
modelled with rare perfection, his whole face, in short, like a
coin of Augustus. But that which neither his bust nor his portrait
could render, which was utterly beyond the domain of imitation,
was the mobility of his look; that look which is to man what
the lightning is to God, namely, the proof of his divinity.
In Bonaparte, that look obeyed his will with the rapidity of
lightning; in one and the same minute it dared from beneath his
eyelids, now keen and piercing as the blade of a dagger violently
unsheathed, now soft as a sun ray or a kiss, now stern as a
challenge, or terrible as a threat.
Bonaparte had a look for every thought that stirred his soul.
In Napoleon, this look, except in the momentous circumstances of
his life, ceased to be mobile and became fixed, but even so it
was none the less impossible to render; it was a drill sounding
the heart of whosoever he looked upon, the deepest, the most
secret thought of which he meant to sound. Marble or painting
might render the fixedness of that look, but neither the one nor
the other could portray its life--that is to say, its penetrating
and magnetic action. Troubled hearts have veiled eyes.
Bonaparte, even in the days of his leanness, had beautiful hands,
and he displayed them with a certain coquetry. As he grew stouter
his hands became superb; he took the utmost care of them, and
looked at them when talking, with much complacency. He felt the
same satisfaction in his teeth, which were handsome, though not
with the splendor of his hands.
When he walked, either alone or with some one, whether in a room
or in a garden, he always bent a little forward, as though his
head were heavy to carry, and crossed his hands behind his back.
He frequently made an involuntary movement with the right shoulder,
as if a nervous shudder had passed through it, and at the same time
his mouth made a curious movement from right to left, which seemed
to result from the other. These movements, however, had nothing
convulsive about them, whatever may have been said notwithstanding;
they were a simple trick indicative of great preoccupation, a
sort of congestion of the mind. It was chiefly manifested when
the general, the First Consul, or the Emperor, was maturing vast
plans. It was after such promenades, accompanied by this twofold
movement of the shoulders and lips, that he dictated his most
important notes. On a campaign, with the army, on horseback,
he was indefatigable; he was almost as much so in ordinary life,
and would often walk five or six hours in succession without
When he walked thus with some one with whom he was familiar, he
commonly passed his arm through that or his companion and leaned
Slender and thin as he was at the period when we place him before
our readers' eyes, he was much concerned by the fear of future
corpulence; it was to Bourrienne that he usually confided this
"You see, Bourrienne, how slim and abstemious I am. Well, nothing
can rid me of the idea that when I am forty I shall be a great
eater and very fat. I foresee that my constitution will undergo
a change. I take exercise enough, but what will you!--it's a
presentiment; and it won't fail to happen."
We all know to what obesity he attained when a prisoner at Saint
He had a positive passion for baths, which no doubt contributed
not a little to make him fat; this passion became an irresistible
need. He took one every other day, and stayed in it two hours,
during which time the journals and pamphlets of the day were
read to him. As the water cooled he would turn the hot-water
faucet until he raised the temperature of his bathroom to such a
degree that the reader could neither bear it any longer, nor see
to read. Not until then would he permit the door to be opened.
It has been said that he was subject to epileptic attacks after
his first campaign in Italy. Bourrienne was with him eleven years,
and never saw him suffer from an attack of this malady.
Bonaparte, though indefatigable when necessity demanded it, required
much sleep, especially during the period of which we are now
writing. Bonaparte, general or First Consul, kept others awake,
but he slept, and slept well. He retired at midnight, sometimes
earlier, as we have said, and when at seven in the morning they
entered his room to awaken him he was always asleep. Usually
at the first call he would rise; but occasionally, still half
asleep, he would mutter: "Bourrienne, I beg of you, let me sleep
a little longer."
Then, if there was nothing urgent, Bourrienne would return at
eight o'clock; if it was otherwise, he insisted, and then, with
much grumbling, Bonaparte would get up. He slept seven, sometimes
eight, hours out of the twenty-four, taking a short nap in the
afternoon. He also gave particular instruction for the night.
"At night," he would say, "come in my room as seldom as possible.
Never wake me if you have good news to announce--good news can
wait; but if there is bad news, wake me instantly, for then there
is not a moment to be lost in facing it."
As soon as Bonaparte had risen and made his morning ablutions,
which were very thorough, his valet entered and brushed his hair
and shaved him; while he was being shaved, a secretary or an
aide-de-camp read the newspapers aloud, always beginning with
the "Moniteur." He gave no real attention to any but the English
and German papers.
"Skip that," he would say when they read him the French papers;
"_I know what they say, because they only say what I choose._"
His toilet completed, Bonaparte went down to his study. We have
seen above what he did there. At ten o'clock the breakfast as
announced, usually by the steward, in these words: "The general
is served." No title, it will be observed, not even that of First
The repast was a frugal one. Every morning a dish was served
which Bonaparte particularly liked--a chicken fried in oil with
garlic; the same dish that is now called on the bills of fare
at restaurants "Chicken à la Marengo."
Bonaparte drank little, and then only Bordeaux or Burgundy,
preferably the latter. After breakfast, as after dinner, he drank
a cup of black coffee; never between meals. When he chanced to work
until late at night they brought him, not coffee, but chocolate,
and the secretary who worked with him had a cup of the same.
Most historians, narrators, and biographers, after saying that
Bonaparte drank a great deal of coffee, add that he took snuff
They are doubly mistaken. From the time he was twenty-four, Bonaparte
had contracted the habit of taking snuff: but only enough to keep
his brain awake. He took it habitually, not, as biographers have
declared, from the pocket of his waistcoat, but from a snuff-box
which he changed almost every day for a new one--having in this
matter of collecting snuff-boxes a certain resemblance to the great
Frederick. If he ever did take snuff from his waistcoat pocket, it
was on his battle days, when it would have been difficult, while
riding at a gallop under fire, to hold both reins and snuff-box.
For those days he had special waistcoats, with the right-hand
pocket lined with perfumed leather; and, as the sloping cut of
his coat enabled him to insert his thumb and forefinger into
this pocket without unbuttoning his coat, he could, under any
circumstances and at any gait, take snuff when he pleased.
As general or First Consul, he never wore gloves, contenting
himself with holding and crumpling them in his left hand. As
Emperor, there was some advance in this propriety; he wore one
glove, and as he changed his gloves, not once, but two or three
times a day, his valet adopted the habit of giving him alternate
gloves; thus making one pair serve as two.
Bonaparte had two great passions which Napoleon inherited--for
war and architectural monuments to his fame.
Gay, almost jolly in camp, he was dreamy and sombre in repose.
To escape this gloom he had recourse to the electricity of art,
and saw visions of those gigantic monumental works of which he
undertook many, and completed some. He realized that such works are
part of the life of peoples; they are history written in capitals,
landmarks of the ages, left standing long after generations are
swept away. He knew that Rome lives in her ruins, that Greece
speaks by her statues, that Egypt, splendid and mysterious spectre,
appeared through her monuments on the threshold of civilized
What he loved above everything, what he hugged in preference
to all else, was renown, heroic uproar; hence his need of war,
his thirst for glory. He often said:
"A great reputation is a great noise; the louder it is, the further
it is heard. Laws, institutions, monuments, nations, all fall; but
sound remains and resounds through other generations. Babylon and
Alexandria are fallen; Semiramis and Alexander stand erect, greater
perhaps through the echo of their renown, waxing and multiplying
through the ages, than they were in their lifetimes." Then he
added, connecting these ideas with himself: "My power depends
on my fame and on the battles I win. Conquest has made me what
I am, and conquest alone can sustain me. A new born government
must dazzle, must amaze. The moment it no longer flames, it dies
out; once it ceases to grow, it falls."
He was long a Corsican, impatient under the conquest of his country;
but after the 13th Vendemiaire he became a true Frenchman, and
ended by loving France with true passion. His dream was to see
her great, happy, powerful, at the head of the nations in glory
and in art. It is true that, in making France great, he became
great with her, and attached his name indissolubly to her grandeur.
To him, living eternally in this thought, actuality disappeared
in the future; wherever the hurricane of war may have swept him,
France, above all things else, above all nations, filled his
thoughts. "What will my Athenians think?" said Alexander, after
Issus and Arbela. "I hope the French will be content with me,"
said Bonaparte, after Rivoli and the Pyramids.
Before battle, this modern Alexander gave little thought to what
he should do in case of victory, but much in case of defeat. He,
more than any man, was convinced that trifles often decide the
greatest events; he was therefore more concerned in foreseeing
such events than in producing them. He watched them come to birth,
and ripen; then, when the right time came, he appeared, laid his
hand on them, mastered and guided them, as an able rider roasters
and guides a spirited horse.
His rapid rise in the midst of revolutions and political changes
he had brought about, or seen accomplished, the events which
he had controlled, had given him a certain contempt for men;
moreover, he was not inclined by nature to think well of them.
His lips were often heard to utter the grievous maxim--all the
more grievous because he personally knew its truth--"There are
two levers by which men are moved, fear and self-interest."
With such opinions Bonaparte did not, in fact, believe in friendship.
"How often," said Bourrienne, "has he said to me, 'Friendship
is only a word; I love no one, not even my brothers--Joseph a
little possibly; but if I love him it is only from habit, and
because he is my elder. Duroc, yes, I love him; but why? Because
his character pleases me; because he is stern, cold, resolute;
besides, Duroc never sheds a tear. But why should I love any
one? Do you think I have any true friends? As long as I am what
I am, I shall have friends--apparently at least; but when my
luck ceases, you'll see! Trees don't have leaves in winter. I
tell you, Bourrienne, we must leave whimpering to the women,
it's their business; as for me, no feelings. I need a vigorous
hand and a stout heart; if not, better let war and government
In his familiar intercourse, Bonaparte was what schoolboys call
a tease; but his teasings were never spiteful, and seldom unkind.
His ill-humor, easily aroused, disappeared like a cloud driven
by the wind; it evaporated in words, and disappeared of its own
will. Sometimes, however, when matters of public import were
concerned, and his lieutenants or ministers were to blame, he
gave way to violent anger; his outbursts were then hard and cruel,
and often humiliating. He gave blows with a club, under which,
willingly or unwillingly, the recipient had to bow his head;
witness his scene with Jomini and that with the Duc de Bellune.
Bonaparte had two sets of enemies, the Jacobins and the royalists;
he detested the first and feared the second. In speaking of the
Jacobins, he invariably called them the murderers of Louis XVI.;
as for the royalists, that was another thing; one might almost
have thought he foresaw the Restoration. He had about him two
men who had voted the death of the king, Fouché and Cambacérès.
He dismissed Fouché, and, if he kept Cambacérès, it was because
he wanted the services of that eminent legist; but he could not
endure him, and he would often catch his colleague, the Second
Consul, by the ear, and say: "My poor Cambacérès, I'm so sorry
for you; but your goose is cooked. If ever the Bourbons get back
they will hang you."
One day Cambacérès lost his temper, and with a twist of his head
he pulled his ear from the living pincers that held it.
"Come," he said, "have done with your foolish joking."
Whenever Bonaparte escaped any danger, a childish habit, a Corsican
habit, reappeared; he always made a rapid sign of the cross on his
breast with the thumb.
Whenever he met with any annoyance, or was haunted with a
disagreeable thought, he hummed--what air? An air of his own
that was no air at all, and which nobody ever noticed, he sang so
false. Then, still singing, he would sit down before his writing
desk, tilting in his chair, tipping it back till he almost fell
over, and mutilating, as we have said, its arms with a penknife,
which served no other purpose, inasmuch as he never mended a
pen himself. His secretaries were charged with that duty, and
they mended them in the best manner possible, mindful of the
fact that they would have to copy that terrific writing, which,
as we know, was not absolutely illegible.
The effect produced on Bonaparte by the ringing of bells is known.
It was the only music he understood, and it went straight to
his heart. If he was seated when the vibrations began he would
hold up his hand for silence, and lean toward the sound. If he
was walking, he would stop, bend his head, and listen. As long
as the bell rang he remained motionless; when the sound died
away in space, he resumed his work, saying to those who asked him
to explain this singular liking for the iron voice: "It reminds
me of my first years at Brienne; I was happy then!"
At the period of which we are writing, his greatest personal
interest was the purchase he had made of the domain of Malmaison.
He went there every night like a schoolboy off for his holiday,
and spent Sunday and often Monday there. There, work was neglected
for walking expeditions, during which he personally superintended
the improvements he had ordered. Occasionally, and especially
at first, he would wander beyond the limits of the estate; but
these excursions were thought dangerous by the police, and given
up entirely after the conspiracy of the Aréna and the affair
of the infernal machine.
The revenue derived from Malmaison, calculated by Bonaparte himself,
on the supposition that he should sell his fruits and vegetables,
did not amount to more than six thousand francs.
"That's not bad," he said to Bourrienne; "but," he added with a
sigh, "one must have thirty thousand a year to be able to live
Bonaparte introduced a certain poesy in his taste for the country.
He liked to see a woman with a tall flexible figure glide through
the dusky shrubberies of the park; only that woman must be dressed
in white. He hated gowns of a dark color and had a horror of
stout women. As for pregnant women, he had such an aversion for
them that it was very seldom he invited one to his soirées or
his fêtes. For the rest, with little gallantry in his nature,
too overbearing to attract, scarcely civil to women, it was rare
for him to say, even to the prettiest, a pleasant thing; in fact,
he often produced a shudder by the rude remarks he made even to
Josephine's best friends. To one he remarked: "Oh! what red arms
you have!" To another, "What an ugly headdress you are wearing!"
To a third, "Your gown is dirty; I have seen you wear it twenty
times"; or, "Why don't you change your dressmaker; you are dressed
like a fright."
One day he said to the Duchesse de Chevreuse, a charming blonde,
whose hair was the admiration of everyone:
"It's queer how red your hair is!"
"Possibly," replied the duchess, "but this is the first time any
man has told me so."
Bonaparte did not like cards; when he did happen to play it was
always vingt-et-un. For the rest, he had one trait in common
with Henry IV., he cheated; but when the game was over he left
all the gold and notes he had won on the table, saying:
"You are ninnies! I have cheated all the time we've been playing,
and you never found out. Those who lost can take their money back."
Born and bred in the Catholic faith, Bonaparte had no preference
for any dogma. When he re-established divine worship it was done
as a political act, not as a religious one. He was fond, however,
of discussions bearing on the subject; but he defined his own part
in advance by saying: "My reason makes me a disbeliever in many
things; but the impressions of my childhood and the inspirations
of my early youth have flung me back into uncertainty."
Nevertheless he would never hear of materialism; he cared little
what the dogma was, provided that dogma recognized a Creator.
One beautiful evening in Messidor, on board his vessel, as it
glided along between the twofold azure of the sky and sea, certain
mathematicians declared there was no God, only animated matter.
Bonaparte looked at the celestial arch, a hundred times more
brilliant between Malta and Alexandria than it is in Europe,
and, at a moment when they thought him unconscious of the
conversation, he exclaimed, pointing to the stars: "You may say
what you please, but it was a God who made all that."
Bonaparte, though very exact in paying his private debts, was
just the reverse about public expenses. He was firmly convinced
that in all past transactions between ministers and purveyors
or contractors, that if the minister who had made the contract
was not a dupe, the State at any rate was robbed; for this reason
he delayed the period of payment as long as possible; there were
literally no evasions, no difficulties he would not make, no
bad reasons he would not give. It was a fixed idea with him, an
immutable principle, that every contractor was a cheat.
One day a man who had made a bid that was accepted was presented
"What is your name?" he asked, with his accustomed brusqueness.
"Vollant, citizen First Consul."
"Good name for a contractor."
"I spell it with two l's, citizen."
"To rob the better, sir," retorted Bonaparte, turning his back
Bonaparte seldom changed his decisions, even when he saw they
were unjust. No one ever heard him say: "I was mistaken." On
the contrary, his favorite saying was: "I always believe the
worst"--a saying more worthy of Simon than Augustus.
But with all this, one felt that there was more of a desire in
Bonaparte's mind to seem to despise men than actual contempt for
them. He was neither malignant nor vindictive. Sometimes, it is
true, he relied too much upon necessity, that iron-tipped goddess;
but for the rest, take him away from the field of politics and
he was kind, sympathetic, accessible to pity, fond of children
(great proof of a kind and pitying heart), full of indulgence for
human weakness in private life, and sometimes of a good-humored
heartiness, like that of Henri IV. playing with his children in
the presence of the Spanish ambassador.
If we were writing history we should have many more things to
say of Bonaparte without counting those which--after finishing
with Bonaparte--we should still have to say of Napoleon. But we
are writing a simple narrative, in which Bonaparte plays a part;
unfortunately, wherever Bonaparte shows himself, if only for a
moment, he becomes, in spite of himself, a principal personage.
The reader must pardon us for having again fallen into digression;
that man, who is a world in himself, has, against our will, swept
us along in his whirlwind.
Let us return to Roland, and consequently to our legitimate tale.
We have seen that Roland, on returning to the Luxembourg, asked
for the First Consul and was told that he was engaged with Fouché,
the minister of police.
Roland was a privileged person; no matter what functionary was
with Bonaparte, he was in the habit, on his return from a journey,
or merely from an errand, of half opening the door and putting
in his head. The First Consul was often so busy that he paid no
attention to this head. When that was the case, Roland would
say "General!" which meant, in the close intimacy which still
existed between the two schoolmates: "General, I am here; do
you need me? I'm at your orders." If the First Consul did not
need him, he replied: "Very good." If on the contrary he did
need him, he said, simply: "Come in." Then Roland would enter,
and wait in the recess of a window until the general told him
what he wanted.
On this occasion, Roland put his head in as usual, saying: "General!"
"Come in," replied the First Consul, with visible satisfaction;
"come in, come in!"
Roland entered. Bonaparte was, as he had been told, busy with
the minister of police. The affair on which the First Consul
was engaged, and which seemed to absorb him a great deal, had
also its interest for Roland.
It concerned the recent stoppages of diligences by the Companions
On the table lay three _procès-verbaux_ relating the stoppage
of one diligence and two mail-coaches. Tribier, the paymaster of
the Army of Italy, was in one of the latter. The stoppages had
occurred, one on the highroad between Meximieux and Montluel, on
that part of the road which crosses the commune of Bellignieux; the
second, at the extremity of the lake of Silans, in the direction
of Nantua; the third, on the highroad between Saint-Etienne and
Bourg, at a spot called Les Carronnières.
A curious fact was connected with these stoppages. A sum of four
thousand francs and a case of jewelry had been mixed up by mistake
with the money-bags belonging to the government. The owners of
the money had thought them lost, when the justice of the peace
at Nantua received an unsigned letter telling him the place where
these objects had been buried, and requesting him to return them
to their rightful owners, as the Companions of Jehu made war
upon the government and not against private individuals.
In another case; that of the Carronnières--where the robbers,
in order to stop the mail-coach, which had continued on its way
with increased speed in spite of the order to stop, were forced
to fire at a horse--the Companions of Jehu had felt themselves
obliged to make good this loss to the postmaster, who had received
five hundred francs for the dead horse. That was exactly what
the animal had cost eight days before; and this valuation proved
that they were dealing with men who understood horses.
The _procès-verbaux_ sent by the local authorities were
accompanied by the affidavits of the travellers.
Bonaparte was singing that mysterious tune of which we have spoken;
which showed that he was furious. So, as Roland might be expected
to bring him fresh information, he had called him three times
to come in.
"Well," said he, "your part of the country is certainly in revolt
against me; just look at that."
Roland glanced at the papers and understood at once.
"Exactly what I came to speak to you about, general," said he.
"Then begin at once; but first go ask Bourrienne for my department
Roland fetched the atlas, and, guessing what Bonaparte desired
to look at, opened it at the department of the Ain.
"That's it," said Bonaparte; "show me where these affairs happened."
Roland laid his finger on the edge of the map, in the neighborhood
"There, general, that's the exact place of the first attack, near
the village of Bellignieux."
"And the second?"
"Here," said Roland, pointing to the other side of the department,
toward Geneva; "there's the lake of Nantua, and here's that of
"Now the third?"
Roland laid his finger on the centre of the map.
"General, there's the exact spot. Les Carronnières are not marked
on the map because of their slight importance."
"What are Les Carronnières?" asked the First Consul.
"General, in our part of the country the manufactories of tiles
are called _carronnières_; they belong to citizen Terrier.
That's the place they ought to be on the map."
And Roland made a pencil mark on the paper to show the exact spot
where the stoppage occurred.
"What!" exclaimed Bonaparte; "why, it happened less than a mile
and a half from Bourg!"
"Scarcely that, general; that explains why the wounded horse was
taken back to Bourg and died in the stables of the Belle-Alliance."
"Do you hear all these details, sir!" said Bonaparte, addressing
the minister of police.
"Yes, citizen First Consul," answered the latter.
"You know I want this brigandage to stop?"
"I shall use every effort--"
"It's not a question of your efforts, but of its being done."
The minister bowed.
"It is only on that condition," said Bonaparte, "that I shall
admit you are the able man you claim to be."
"I'll help you, citizen," said Roland.
"I did not venture to ask for your assistance," said the minister.
"Yes, but I offer it; don't do anything that we have not planned
The minister looked at Bonaparte.
"Quite right," said Bonaparte; "you can go. Roland will follow
you to the ministry."
Fouché bowed and left the room.
"Now," continued the First Consul, "your honor depends upon your
exterminating these bandits, Roland. In the first place, the
thing is being carried on in your department; and next, they
seem to have some particular grudge against you and your family."
"On the contrary," said Roland, "that's what makes me so furious;
they spare me and my family."
"Let's go over it again, Roland. Every detail is of importance;
it's a war of Bedouins over again."
"Just notice this, general. I spend a night in the Chartreuse of
Seillon, because I have been told that it was haunted by ghosts.
Sure enough, a ghost appears, but a perfectly inoffensive one.
I fire at it twice, and it doesn't even turn around. My mother
is in a diligence that is stopped, and faints away. One of the
robbers pays her the most delicate attentions, bathes her temples
with vinegar, and gives her smelling-salts. My brother Edouard
fights them as best he can; they take him in their arms, kiss
him, and make him all sorts of compliments on his courage; a
little more and they would have given him sugar-plums as a reward
for his gallant conduct. Now, just the reverse; my friend Sir
John follows my example, goes where I have been; he is treated
as a spy and stabbed, as they thought, to death."
"But he didn't die."
"No. On the contrary, he is so well that he wants to marry my
"Ah ha! Has he asked for her?"
"And you answered?"
"I answered that the matter depended on two persons."
"Your mother and you; that's true."
"No; my sister herself--and you."
"Your sister I understand; but I?"
"Didn't you tell me general, that you would take charge of marrying
Bonaparte walked up and down the room with his arms crossed;
then, suddenly stopping before Roland, he said: "What is your
"You have seen him, general."
"I don't mean physically; all Englishmen are alike--blue eyes,
red hair, white skin, long jaws."
"That's their _th_," said Roland, gravely.
"Yes. Did yon ever learn English, general?"
"Faith! I tried to learn it."
"Your teacher must have told you that the _th_ was sounded
by pressing the tongue against the teeth. Well, by dint of punching
their teeth with their tongues the English have ended by getting
those elongated jaws, which, as you said just now, is one of
the distinctive characteristics of their physiognomy."
Bonaparte looked at Roland to see if that incorrigible jester
were laughing or speaking seriously. Roland was imperturbable.
"Is that your opinion?" said Bonaparte.
"Yes, general, and I think that physiologically it is as good
as any other. I have a lot of opinions like it, which I bring
to light as the occasion offers."
"Come back to your Englishman."
"I asked you what he was like."
"Well, he is a gentleman; very brave, very calm, very impassible,
very noble, very rich, and, moreover--which may not be a
recommendation to you--a nephew of Lord Grenville, prime minister
to his Britannic Majesty."
"I said, prime minister to his Britannic Majesty."
Bonaparte resumed his walk; then, presently returning to Roland,
he said: "Can I see your Englishman?"
"You know, general, that you can do anything."
"Where is he?"
"Go find him and bring him here."
Roland was in the habit of obeying without reply; he took his
hat and went toward the door.
"Send Bourrienne to me," said the First Consul, just as Roland
passed into the secretary's room.
Five minutes later Bourrienne appeared.
"Sit down there, Bourrienne," said the First Consul, "and write."
Bourrienne sat down, arranged his paper, dipped his pen in the
ink, and waited.
"Ready?" asked the First Consul, sitting down upon the writing
table, which was another of his habits; a habit that reduced
his secretary to despair, for Bonaparte never ceased swinging
himself back and forth all the time he dictated--a motion that
shook the table as much as if it had been in the middle of the
ocean with a heaving sea.
"I'm ready," replied Bourrienne, who had ended by forcing himself to
endure, with more or less patience, all Bonaparte's eccentricities.
"Then write." And he dictated:
Bonaparte, First Consul of the Republic, to his Majesty the King
of Great Britain and Ireland.
Called by the will of the French nation to the chief magistracy
of the Republic, I think it proper to inform your Majesty
personally of this fact.
Must the war, which for two years has ravaged the four quarters
of the globe, be perpetuated? Is there no means of staying it?
How is it that two nations, the most enlightened of Europe,
more powerful and strong than their own safety and