Research Subjects: Napoleon Himself


CHAPTER VI

When the Emperor had abdicated, the foreign rulers showed themselves to be easy with regard to their past interests; they said he would retain the rank, title and honors of royalty.  As to his residence, they left him the choice between Corsica and Elba; Napoleon chose the latter.

—If I live in my native country, he said, sooner or later you would find me too close to France.  The stay on the Island of Elba could offend no one.  What do I need to live now? a plot of land with a horse and a crown a day.

The Treaty of Paris stipulated that the French Government would grant him a subsidy of two million francs, and he would be free to take, in addition, the staff of his house and eight hundred men of his army that would follow.  Whatever misfortunate position he had in this solemn moment, he didn’t forget his family, or his friends, or his servants.  He asked that the measures he had taken on their behalf should be respected and that one did not disturb their ownership of the property he had given them, such as properties, endowments and annuities.  He also stipulated that the private funds that belonged to him and he was abandoning, should be reserved in a sum of two million to be distributed to a number of officers and soldiers of his army, that he would name.  He gave away everything.  It was believed that the treaty terms would be religiously observed: it was not. Soon learning himself of this abuse, he said about this:

—Assuming that the Allies are not faithful to their commitments to me.  I revoke my abdication.  I waived my rights to the crown to spare France the horrors of civil war, having never had any other purpose than its happiness and glory.  They can take away my pain, but I challenge them to take away the heart of my soldiers: I can still do great things with them.

It was he who took care to inform those around him that he had ceased to reign.   Fontainebleau became deserted.  Napoleon busied himself with the arrangements for his departure, and lived as a private individual. Secluded in a corner of the vast palace in which he was still living for a few days, whenever he heard a carriage driving in the courts, he asked eagerly:

Is not Berthier returning?

—No, Sire, someone would reply.

—If it's one of mine who wants to say goodbye to me, lead them in.

He expected to see at least once, his former ministers, State advisors, his generals, and many others who owed him a last proof of attachment; nobody came!  He stood alone with the small number of officers and servants of his household who had resolved not to abandon him ever.  The Grand Marshal Bertrand, Generals Drouot and Cambronne, the surgeon Fourreau de Beauregard, the travel master Peyrusse, the quartermasters of the palace and Deschamps and Baillon, won the favor of Napoleon to follow him to the island of Elba, and he composed a house small in number but strong in loyalty and dedication.  Instead of eight hundred men, they would only let him take four hundred.  All his old comrades in glory wanted to go with him: Napoleon was spoiled by great choices.  Also under the Treaty of Paris, he would be accompanied to the place of embarkation by a Commissioner of each of the four allied powers. For several days the commissioners arrived at Fontainebleau: they were the Russian General Schouwaloff, the Austrian General Koller, the English Colonel Campbell and the Prussian General Baron Truchsess. The Emperor received every one of them in a private audience: but there was a significant difference in the reception he gave to each of them; it was Colonel Campbell that was received the best. The Englishman still had on his forehead the traces of a recent injury.  Napoleon asked him in what battle he had received it and on what occasion he had been decorated with the orders that shone on his chest; then changing the text of the conversation:

—I have cordially hated the English, added he; I made war with them by every means possible; they bested me: now we are done with that.  I will tell you that I hold your nation in esteem, because I am convinced that there is more generosity in its government than anywhere else, he continued, looking at the other commissioners.

After these gentlemen had retired, the Emperor was given a letter brought to Fontainebleau by a personal courier of Savary, who had not left Marie-Louise.  On reading the note, his agitation became extreme. He read it twice carefully, convulsively folded it and put it in his pocket, saying:

—It's impossible! ... An assassination! ... How dare they! ... That day he dined alone, and would see nobody.  In the evening he wrote to the Empress Marie-Louise, who had been taken to Orleans by Rambouillet to see her father, then he locked himself in his bedroom chamber with his books and a map Elba, from which he could get an idea of the new residence that awaited him.  In the meantime, the rest of the Imperial family had scattered: Madam mother and his brother, Cardinal Fesch, had taken the road to Rome: the Princes Louis, Joseph and Jerome to Switzerland , and Queen Hortense had gone to join her mother, the Empress Josephine at Malmaison.

On the night of 19 to 20, Napoleon felt the last defection when it was still more sensitive than any that had preceded it: his first chamber valet, in whom he had confidence, and his Mameluck Rustan, who he had filled with good things, did not reappear.  In the morning, not seeing either one or the other at the usual time of their service, he merely said, upon learning of their disappearance from Fontainebleau:

—In fact, I had forgotten that ingratitude was order of the day.

The kindness that Napoleon had never ceased to bestow on Constant for over twelve years that he was attached to his person, was such that even as it had been decided that, as an economy measure, none of his ordinary valets would accompany him to Elba, he himself requested that Constant choose someone who could assist him in his service.  It was here that he glanced on the young M. Marchand, usher of the King of Rome, whose intelligence and honesty were known to him, and who was the son of the first baby rocker of the child-king. Constant had spoken to the Emperor, who had approved, and M. Marchand had accepted this new position with gratitude. He then replaced Constant with the title of first chamber valet, and followed Napoleon to Elba, as he was to follow the next year to St. Helena, and mixed well with his name among the small number of men whose dedication and loyalty have them made so justly popular.

On April 28, at ten o'clock in the morning, carriages were hitched up for travel and lined up in the courtyard of the White Horse.  The Imperial Guard had taken up arms and formed a perimeter.  At noon precisely, the door of the room where Napoleon had withdrawn opened, and an usher announced loudly: The Emperor!

Napoleon appeared.  He reached out to all those present, hurrying through the apartment, quickly descended the grand staircase of the chateau, beneath which there was all that remained of the largest and most brilliant court of Europe: there was the Duke of Bassano, General Belliard, counts Anatole de Montesquiou and de Turenne, Colonel Gourgaud, Baron Fain, Colonel Athalin, the Chevalier Joanne, many Poles, including the General Kosakowski and the Colonel Germanowski , who obtained permission to accompany him to Elba, and the foreign commissioners and a host of other characters of distinction.  Immediately this group surrounded him: but he made a sign that he wanted to talk.  Everyone departed.  Everyone knows that beautiful scene that Horace Vernet has reproduced in such an admirable manner in his tableau Farewell at Fontainebleau but it is so popular, we cannot dispense without recalling it, because it is an essential part of the topic we chose. Napoleon advanced with a firm step towards his grenadiers, who all, staring, kept a religious silence, and then in a voice sounding like the days of his greatest triumphs:

“—Soldiers of my Old Guard, he said, I bid you farewell.  For twenty years, I have consistently found you on the path of honor and glory.  In the recent past, as in those of our prosperity, you have never ceased to be models of courage and loyalty.  With men like you, our cause was not lost but the war would be unending; it would have been civil war, and France would have become most unfortunate.  So I sacrificed all my interests to those of the country: I'm leaving.  You, my friends, continue to serve the motherland.  Her happiness was my only thought; it will always be the object of my wishes!  Do not pity my fate if I have consented to survive, to be still useful to your glory.  I want to write about the great things we've done together! ... Farewell, my children ... I would press you all to my heart, but I shall embrace your General.”

At these words, addressed to General Petit and stretching out his arms:

—Come on, General! He said. And he kissed him effusively.  Bring me the Eagle, he added.

Immediately the flag bearer stepped forward staggering, and while with one hand he covered his eyes to hide her tears, with the other, he inclined his Eagle.  Napoleon took the fringe of the flag and pressed it several times on his lips, saying in a trembling voice:

—My children! Let that last kiss resound in your hearts!

The silence of admiration that inspired this great scene was suddenly interrupted by the sobs of soldiers. Napoleon, which increases the excitement, made a last effort and taking a firmer voice:

—Adieu, my old comrades, adieu!

And, quickly hiding from the crowd that pressed in, he dashed into a carriage at the door of which the grand marshal was already placed, and disappeared into the vortex of the French escort who provide protection.  Immediately a great cry was heard: that of Long live the Emperor!

 In a journey as long as that from Fontainebleau to Fréjus, Napoleon had too great a train and too numerous a following to go as quickly as he had desired, even more so than usual.  The evening of that first day he had arrived at Montargis.  He only stopped for an hour for dinner, and left going towards Lyon.

The General Drouot went in advance.  The Emperor, with the grand marshal in a carriage with four seats, the only one that was drawn by six horses, came immediately after.  Those generals Koller and Schouwaloff, Colonel Campbell and Baron Truschess, followed his.  Two other carriages, each with six seats were occupied by officers of his civil and military house. Finally, six wagons loaded with luggage had taken another route, because of the inability to unite enough horses on a single number.

The day before, pickets of cavalry had explored scouting near Fontainebleau.  There were fears, and they were well founded, that Savary, in his capacity as minister of the Imperial police, was then in Orleans with members of the Regency, which had been dissolved.  Anyway, he thought to spread some agents out to canvass opinion and keep abreast of public opinion.  They soon came to warn him they had met in the vicinity of Fossard, not far from Fontainebleau, a band of armed horsemen, led by a former equerry to the Queen of Westphalia, which, they said, were looking for an opportunity to pounce on Napoleon on his way and assassination.  Savary had warned the Emperor of the ambush; had taken random precautionary measures, and the murderers, who did not dare to go against the fifty lancers who formed the private escort of the Emperor, fell back the train of the Queen of Westphalia, which they plundered.

They claimed, at the time, that the leader of the band had no other mission than to seize the crown jewels and treasures that Napoleon had taken from her.  But one did not generally know until after April 20 that the valuables had on the occasion of the 10th of the same month been returned by Baron Dudon to the Provisional Government.  Yet this was the pretext which was used by the Prussian General Sacken, Governor of Paris, by General Dupont, Secretary of War, by the Prefect of Police, Anglès, by the Director of Positions Bourrienne, all the ministers of the Provisional Government headed by M. de Talleyrand, to issue an order to the expedition of civilian authorities and military posts for the execution, it was said, of a secret mission of the utmost importance.

The Queen of Westphalia complained to the Emperor Alexander, her parent, and demanded valuables and the diamonds and the eighty thousand francs in gold which had been taken.  The equerry to the Queen was arrested and the investigation of the long proceedings opened against him on this, he literally said:  he had been charged with nothing less than to kill Bonaparte and his son; that this proposal had been made by M. de Talleyrand and in return for that service one would give him 200,000 fr., to make him a Duke, lieutenant general and governor of a province; but he had accepted this mission to save the life of the Emperor and that of the King of Rome; it was only to look as if he had done something that he had taken jewelry from the wife of Jérôme Bonaparte; that he had returned the removed boxes to the secretary of the provisional government, and with that he washed his hands.

Between these serious charges and the obstinate silence kept by M. de Talleyrand and the signed orders issued, it is difficult to say. It is a mystery that time has not yet sufficiently clarfied.

One of the peculiarities of the trip was that almost the whole Imperial Guard was stationed in the country that Napoleon had to travel through up to Nevers.  In passing through, it was under arms; but for several days it had been recommended by its superiors not acknowledge by word, no sign, that it pitied the fate of its Emperor.

This elite corps proved obedient in this painful circumstance. It kept a mournful silence.  At no time had a monarch been surrounded by a better or more devoted militia than Napoleon; it was perhaps greatest in this day than in those it had shown during his glorious career.  He was escorted by his guards up to Briare.

The 21st, Napoleon slept at Nevers.  There he was still received with cheers from the crowd, its cries of enthusiasm, mingled few epithets showing little courtesy to the foreign commissioners. It was on leaving this town that he had the misfortune to see his French escort replaced by a body of Cossacks and heard shouting of: Long live the Allies!  But these annoyances, however painful they might have been, were only the prelude to the insults and dangers that assaulted him in Lyon, where he merely passed through on the night of 22 to 23.  He left a trusted person to await the arrival of the Paris post and bring him newspapers with everything he could to obtain from the brochures under these circumstances.  While changing horses, a large group waited outside the station, shouting cries of Vive l'Empereur!  It was the last time.

 In Valencia , Napoleon saw for the first time, citizens and French officers with the white cockade in their hats.  They belonged to the corps of Augereau.  At the hostel of the post, where he stopped, he was joined by the person he had left in Lyon.  Among the papers he brought him, was the Moniteur, which provided the proclamation made by the Duke of Castiglione to his army to mark the return of the Bourbons and in which he accused Napoleon by applying the epithet coward ... After reading, the Emperor merely shrug with a smile of contempt.  He was also in Valencia when he heard screaming for the first time: Long live the King!  The cry made him feel a kind of involuntary shudder.  He stopped in the capital of the Drôme just long enough to change horses, and after passing Loriol and Derbierres, he arrived on the 24th at six o'clock in the evening, at Montélimar, and went to the inn that had been designated by the commissioners.  Scarcely had he entered the first room, which served at the same time as a kitchen, when one handed him a sealed note. He opened it and read:

—Ah! ah! he said with a smile of contempt, he wishes to renew this, we tried that! ... Well! we'll see.

And he walked in the kitchen while they prepared a hasty service for the ground floor. Some public officials of Montelimart presented themselves at the porter of the public-house asking for the honor to see the Emperor.  He consented to receive them, and asked with a remarkable serenity in a time when he knew that they agitating for him, a few miles away, for his death. These officials spoke of their regret:

—What you do, gentlemen! He answered them, is you must be like me to resign and wait.

Two former army officers, one of whom was Captain Krettly, former trumpeter of his guides, which we discussed in the course of this history, also came to claim the favor to wish him a final farewell.

At eight o'clock they were on the road to Avignon.  Two posts later, in Donzère, he was greeted with cries of vengeance.  The people were celebrating the day a celebration for the arrival of Louis XVIII in France .  Offensive cries arose.  Some women of the people, completely drunk, approached waving torches, and addressed to Napoleon insults such that behind the closed windows of his carriage, he said to Bertrand, in a tone of pity:

—But look at them! ... What a hideous spectacle! ... These women are furies escaped from hell.

Arriving in Orange at four o’clock in the morning, he went on foot, in company of the Grand Marshal and General Drouot, to the first cottage that they found in front of Caderousse.  A quartermaster of the palace also alighted and took the lead.  He walked about two hundred yards from the Imperial group, when he met the mail courier of Marseilles, who stopped and asked:

—Are not these the carriages of the Emperor that I see there?

—No, sir, replied the quartermaster, who had the word; they are train belonging to the allied generals.

—Why deny it?  I am sure of what I say and you yourself are part of the Imperial house. Well! passing through Orgon, yesterday I saw the Emperor hanged in effigy by a band of evil villains.  If he passes there, he is lost, they’ll assassinate him.  Imagine that these rascals have erected a gallows on which they was suspended by the neck a mannequin dressed in French uniform, with a sign on its chest, which was written:  This is what awaits you here! That is the truth, sir, so enjoy it if you want.

Having said that, he returned to his cabriolet and galloped off.

The quartermaster took General Drouot aside, and repeated what he had learned.  The latter presented it to the grand marshal, who reported the fact to the Emperor before the allied commissioners.  These then, justly alarmed, held a sort of council on the highway, and it was decided that Napoleon would shoulder a coat collar like those worn by most people following the commissioners, he would wear a round hat and he would change carriages. As the attempting near Fontainebleau failed, it was evident that they had organized another in Avignon.  Two days previously, emissaries from heaven knows where were posted in the city, and were easily able to excite the populace.  A famous butcher, one of the mass murderers of the Glacière, which his henchmen had called the Avenger, had already been put in charge of two hundred wretches who roamed the streets shouting “that they wanted to drink the blood of the tyrant and devour the Ogre of Corsica.”

Indeed, at Avignon the danger that rumbled like a storm in Valencia finally broke.  The day before Napoleon was passing through this city was a Sunday.  The service carriages had already arrived, they stopped at the Hôtel du Palais-Royal.  The officers of the palace and the servants who were part of the convoy were still wearing the tricolor cockade, and, on their buttons, the Imperial eagle.  That day also, the Spanish officers, prisoners in the former chateau of the Popes, had been released.  This issue had aroused great joy in the people who had danced farandoles and went through the city shouting: Long live the King!  It is always something to fear from the populace of the South, when she laughs or when she cries.  Security measures were taken immediately: but they could not have been very reassuring, because their means were almost zero.  There were few line troops, the National Guard was not yet organized, and the repressive force consisted only of the ruins of the urban guard, of whom M. de Montagnat was commander.

At one o'clock in the morning, a carriage without a coat-of-arms, led by three horses and a coachman, presented to relay.  The sentry who was posted at this place screamed: To arms!  M. de Montagnat arrived with some men; this carriage was that of Colonel Campbell, with a Russian officer whom Napoleon, together with the commissioners, had sent ahead of Montélimar.  M. de Montagnat asked the colonel with interest if the escort to His Majesty was enough to put up a brave resistance in case of attack.

—Do you fear an organized attempt? replied the Commissioner.

—Yes; and one man killed, everything is lost if you aren’t strongest.

M. de Montagnat and the Colonel then decided that courier who arranged the relays should arrive before the Emperor, and that His Majesty would change horses outside of the town.

The Colonel continued his journey to Orgon.

At four o'clock in the morning, courier who preceded Napoleon arrived.  M. de Montagnat told him he had to lead the horse to three hundred paces in front of the gate of Saint-Lazare, where it was agreed that the carriages would stop. This gate was opposite to that by which Napoleon was to come.  The courier would not initially comply with this provision; M. de Montagnat was obliged to employ a threat for it to be decided.  A courier was dispatched on horseback to warn the convoy to go around the city and head towards this point.  Unfortunately, all this had been performed so secretly that few people had been informed.  An enraged crowd had stood on this side, while M. de Montagnat followed by his little band, went there.  He found the carriage of the Emperor already surrounded by Spaniards uttering horrible imprecations.  There was also unknown men in the country and they claimed later to have been there by chance.  Despite this coincidence, one of them repeatedly rushed to the door to open and extract the Emperor from his carriage.  M. de Montagnat, endowed with great strength, seized him and sent him rolling into a ditch beside the road.  Meanwhile, a verdet* having crept in among the horses they had brought, and, with a knife in hand, tried to cut the traces.  The crowd swelled; the hostile demonstrations became increasingly menacing, all presaged a bloody tragedy.  A completely drunk person, with a terrible countenance, armed with an old sword that he brandished uttering frightful cries, put his hand on the ring of the door and a footman placed on the seat the carriage, drew his hunting knife to stab him ...

—Alas! exclaimed M. de Montagnat, do not move!

Meanwhile Napoleon, quickly lowering the front window, advanced to the front, and seizing the footman by the tail of his coat:

—Francois! he said with a loud but calm voice, stay calm, I command you!

While this was happening, the postilions had been in the saddle, the horses were launched, and Napoleon was away at a gallop amid a hail of stones.  He had only time to lean out on the side of M. de Montagnat, to whom he owed his life to tell him, waving his hand:

 —Sir, thank you.

But new perils, the largest yet, awaited following this trip, to be avenged so well a year later, by the triumphant return from the Island of Elba.  When Colonel Campbell, who continued to go forward to scout the route, arrived in Orgon, the entire populace of the neighborhood had gathered on the square and shouted:

 —Down with the Corsican! Death to the tyrant!

The mayor of the city, the same who, fifteen years ago, had almost hugged the knees of Napoleon approached the car from the English colonel:

—Is what you're after that scoundrel Bonaparte? He asked.

—No, sir, I am attached to the commissioners of the Allied powers.

—Ah!  You have reason not to support this rascal.  I want to hang him with my own hands!  If you knew, sir, how he has deceived us!  To me, one of the first, he spoke with his return from Egypt .  Then we unyoked horses of his carriage to drag it ourselves: today I want to avenge the honor that I have made and I expect to!

During the diatribe, the Colonel had entered the hostel to send his servant to the other commissioners in order to prevent the dangers that still threatened the Emperor.  The courier met the Imperial carriage at the heights of Saint-Andréol, and completed his mission to General Koller, who he found in third carriage with Napoleon and the Grand Marshal.  This time it was again decided that the Emperor would shoulder a uniform coat of General Koller and go with him in advance, but when, for safety, it was proposed to put a white cockade in his hat; despite insisting that he must, he would never consent; and, preceded by one of his grooms called Amaudru, he continued to move on Orgon, accompanied only by General Koller.

The first object that met the eyes of Napoleon on coming down from the carriage in the post inn, was a mannequin dressed almost like him, suspended by a rope from a gallows erected to the right of the place.  A large group around it, uttered frightful cries at this model that the wind was swinging.  The Emperor turned his head and hurried into the house.  It was, like all the inns of Provence, built in the middle of a courtyard surrounded by walls with two doors, one, main entrance and one exit and having a sort of alley that led to the highway.  The innkeeper, wanting the travelers to escape the fury of the people, shut the front door and pressed the postilions to bring horses. They hastened to harness, and the carriage was taken at a gallop to where Napoleon and General Koller were. The foreign commissioners did not want breakfast in Orgon, paid for the preparations already made, and rejoined the Emperor at Saint-Canat, at the inn of the Calade where he had arrived a few moments before.

By entering this other hostel, Napoleon and his companion approached the fireplace. The groom Amaudru and servant of the Austrian general stood respectfully a few paces behind.  According to his habit of familiarity, Napoleon had spoken to the sister of the landlord.  This woman said, she was hurt the year before by police, defending her sick husband that they wanted to take by force, and had vowed revenge and to strike the first blow against the Emperor when he comes to pass.  Her speeches breathed hatred.  Napoleon listened quietly and answered only in monosyllables to the questions addressed to him while watching the preparations for breakfast.

—So you think, she said, that the tyrant will soon arrive?

—But ... yes...

 —So much the better ... I am always for what I have said: he must be thrown down a pit with stones on top.  I will be glad when I see it there, she added, with a gesture indicating the well that was the end of the court.  It is forty-five feet deep, there are stones all around: I will undertake the operation myself!

As she spoke, the woman turned her head and noticed that the only person who did not have his hat in his hand was exactly he, who she spoke to.  She recognized Napoleon, and remained speechless and confused.  Seeing him so calm before her insults, all her anger vanished, and the powerful gaze of the deposed Emperor, who was resting gently on her, awoke in her heart all the concealed generosity of woman.

—Ah! Sire, forgive me! She cried, hastening to her knees and clutching one of his hands, I'm unhappy to have spoken! And getting up eagerly: they will not touch while I'm alive! She said with a sublime accent.

 During this time there was knocking at the door, and they tried to break it in. The young woman watched Napoleon wildly:

—I'll save you! She exclaimed again.

Then she rushed into the courtyard.  The innkeeper had the greatest respect for Napoleon.  He warned that it would not be prudent to go through Aix, where a huge population waited to stone him.  While the commissioners were preparing to send to the mayor of this city an order to close the gates and ensure public tranquility, individuals with sinister appearances gathered around the house where the Emperor now rested.  A courier was sent to the mayor of Aix, with a second letter, in which the commissioners warned the magistrate that if the gates were not closed in an hour, they would go with two regiments of lancers and four pieces artillery and blast with grapeshot anything that would be in their way.

This threat had all the desired effect.  The messenger returned to tell the commissioners that the gates were closed and the Mayor replied that all orderly.  One certainly wanted to avoid the dangers which threatened Napoleon in Aix, but there remained a more imminent overt threat: the gathering that formed a few hours earlier around the hostel had increased considerably.  If the doors had not been carefully barricaded, the populace would have certainly delivered the most criminal excesses.  Some madmen who were a part of it held in their hand a five-franc piece with the portrait of the Emperor, to better recognize their target.  Meanwhile, as he had spent two nights without sleep, he withdrew into an adjoining room and fell asleep on a chair.  When he was informed that everything was ready for departure, fearful screams were heard outside.  There was another attempt to break open the door and finally it gave way before the multitude, when the sister of the landlord suddenly appeared with an ax in her hand:

 —I have promised to save you, she said to Napoleon, I'll keep my word; follow me.  And going herself to the door opening: Away!  She cried while brandishing her ax, and stay where you are! ... These are the commissioners of the Allies who will embark with the tyrant!

At these words, this gesture, the crowd broke up without recognizing Napoleon, who threw himself into his carriage, got up the steps and the postilions mounted to depart.  Cries of:  Down with Nicolas! Death to the tyrant! were heard and a hail of stones shattered the windows of the inn and the glass of the carriage ... Residents nearby had climbed into the trees lining the road so they could insult with impunity Napoleon on his way.

The Emperor relayed outside the town of Aix. The sub-prefect, M. Dupeloux, showed in this circumstance, a lot of dedication, escorting by horse Napoleon's carriage to the limits of his department.

The Princess Pauline, after spending the winter at Nice, had rented in the vicinity d’Hyères a small chateau called Le Luc, belonging to M. Charles, a former member of the legislature. There she was aware of the events at Fontainebleau.  On learning that this journey of her brother had been threatened more than once for days, she trembled for him, especially when she knew that, yielding to her invitation, he came to be near her; for the sentiments of the countryside were known to her.  It was April 26, at two o'clock in the afternoon that he arrived at that residence.  Pauline was with one of her ladies, the Marquee de Saluzzo, and Count de Montbreton her first groom. Hearing the sound of his carriage, she wanted to go meet her brother, but she could only cry, and fell into the arms of her friend.  M. de Montbreton hastened to receive Napoleon, who he conducted to the apartment of the Princess. This one, so ill, that she could only reach out and burst into tears without saying a word.

However the small courtyard of the chateau was filled with a crowd of peasants from the vicinity, which for the most part, were as exasperated as those of Orgon, uttered horrible cries.  Despite the entreaties of his sister, Napoleon went down into the court and appeared suddenly in the midst of the madmen, the hat on his head and arms folded across his chest. The Allied commissioners, who had hastened to intervene, argued in vain that after they had successfully crossed the Porto Ferrajo he could do what he wanted, until then they were responsible for the misfortunes that took place.

—And to whom? God! Napoleon asked them with a slight shrug.

At these words, General Koller, with a sublime gesture pointing to heaven, replied heatedly:

—Sire, God first, then the world! But Napoleon, taking no account of the advice for safety given him, ventured into the crowd that became more compact around him.  The commissioners, fearing a disaster were about to make him a rampart of their bodies, when, seeing at a few steps a tall man whose face was divided in two by a scar, Napoleon came to his side, and taking him by the sleeve of her blouse:

—You are called Mandarou, he said to him; what are you doing here?  Why did you leave your wife and children?

At these words the old soldier became purple, and laying his hand mechanically to his forehead as if to make a military salute, stammered a few words of explanation:

It's true, your Majesty, I am ungrateful; but if you allow me, I'll go wherever you want, provided it be with you.

—Well, we shall see. In the meantime go find your wife: I want to see her.

And while Mandarou told the peasants who had surrounded him the kindness with which Napoleon had granted him leave and a pension three years ago, Napoleon asked those who were closest to him how far it was from Luc to Saint-Tropez and from Saint-Tropez to Fréjus. Then suddenly interrupting himself:

—I remember, he added he, it is Massena who is at Toulon ... Which of you, my friends, will carry him a letter?

—Me! ... me ... a hundred voices answered at once.

The feelings of hatred that motivated these men there became in a moment, succeeded by an enthusiasm by one of these reactions so common in crowds.  A young woman, who was noted previously by the violence of her speech, broke through the ranks:

—I will carry your letter, she said.

And at once, speaking with pride to those who claimed this favor:

—You have no right to stop me: I am the widow of a gunner who died on the battlefield!

At this moment, General Koller approached M. de Montbreton:

—How do you get His Majesty to come back? he asked him anxiously, we do not know what to do ...

For answer, the attendant of the princess lightly touched the arm of Napoleon, who turned quickly:

—Sire, he said quietly, Her Imperial Highness had something important to communicate to your Majesty; she awaits.

Napoleon went immediately to his sister.  She promised to join him at Elba, soon as her health would allow.

The next day the 27th, Napoleon went to Fréjus, where he found Colonel Campbell, who was instructed to bring into the small port of Saint-Rapheau the English frigate the Undaunted (l’Indomptable).  He sailed April 28, 1814, at seven o'clock in the evening.  Half an hour later, the vessel weighed anchor and was heading for the Island of Elba.  Colonel Campbell was the only foreign commissioners who accompanied Napoleon on board.  Before boarding the boat, he had thanked affectionately Count Schouwaloff, General Koller and the Baron Truschess. These commissioners had vowed that an assassination would not sully the pages of their itinerary, and they kept their word courageously.  They were rewarded with dignity: by shaking their hands in Fontainebleau, Napoleon had bequeathed their names to posterity.

*One uses this term for certain royalist volunteers, who were organized under the Restoration in the Midi of France; so called by the green colors that they took; being those of the Count d’Artois, later Charles X.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: October 2009

 

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