The Empress Josephine
Part 4 out of 10
lapdog if he again barked at me so."
Josephine said nothing, but the peculiar smile she had noticed on
her children's face had passed, at the words of Madame Lanoy, over
Josephine's radiant countenance, and she now with her pet names
called Fortune to her, to press him to her heart, to pat him, and by
all these caresses to make amends for his having his collar somewhat
But whilst thus petting him, and tenderly smoothing down his sleek
fur, her slim fingers quickly and cautiously passed under the wide
collar of Fortune. Then her eyes were rapidly directed toward the
jailer. He was engaged in animated conversation with Madame Lanoy,
who knew how to make him talk, by inquiring after the health of his
little sick daughter.
A second time Josephine's fingers were passed under Fortune's
collar--for she had well understood the words of Madame Lanoy--with
a woman's keen instinct she understood why Fortune's collar had been
drawn closer about him. She had felt the thin, closely-folded paper,
which was tied up with the string in the dog's collar, and she drew
it out rapidly, adroitly to hide it in her hand. She then called
Hortense and Eugene, and whilst she talked with them, she slowly and
carefully, under pretext of adjusting more closely the kerchief
round her neck, secreted the paper in her bosom.
The jailer had seen nothing; he was telling Madame Lanoy, with all
the pride of a kind father, that all the prisoners were anxious
about his little Eugenie; that all, more than once a day, inquired
how it fared with the little one; that she was the pet of the
prisoners, who were so delighted to have the child with them, and
for long hours to jest and play with her. Unfortunate captives, who
nattered the child, and feigned love for it, so as to move the
father's heart, and instil into it a little compassion for their
When Eugene and Hortense came the next time with their faithful
Lanoy, Fortune was again led by the string as a prisoner, and this
time Josephine was still more affectionate than before. She not only
welcomed him at his entrance, and lifted him up in her arms, but she
was yet, if possible, more affectionate toward him at the time of
departure, and embraced him, and tried if the collar had not been
buckled on too tightly, if the string which was tied round it did
not hurt him too much. And whilst she examined this, Eugene was
telling the jailer that he was now a worthy apprentice of a cabinet-
maker, and that he hoped one day to be a useful citizen of the
republic. The jailer was listening to him with a complacent smile,
and had no suspicion that at this moment Josephine's cunning fingers
were making sure with the string under the collar the note in which
she gave an answer to the other note that she had before found under
the collar of Fortune. [Footnote: "Souvenirs d'un Sexagenaire," par
M.L. Arnould, vol. iii., p. 3.]
From this day, Josephine knew every thing of importance in Paris;
from this time she could point out to her children the means to
pursue so as to win to their parents influential and powerful
friends, so that they might one day be delivered from their
captivity. Fortune was love's messenger between Josephine and her
children; a beam of happiness had penetrated both cells, where lived
Alexandre de Beauharnais and Josephine, and they owed this gleam
only to the lapdog mail.
Since France had become a democratic republic, since the differences
in rank were abolished, and liberty, equality, and fraternity alone
prevailed, the aristocracy was either beyond the frontiers of France
or else in the prisons. Outside of the prison were but citoyens and
citoyennes; inside of the prison were yet dukes and duchesses,
counts and countesses, viscounts and viscountesses; there, behind
locks and bars, the aristocracy was represented in its most glorious
and high-sounding names.
And there also, within these walls, was the proud, strict dame, whom
Marie Antoinette had once, to her misfortune, driven away from the
Tuileries, and who had not been permitted to possess a single foot
of ground in all France--there, within the prison with the
aristocrats, lived also Madame Etiquette. She had to leave the
Tuileries with the nobility, and with the nobility she had entered
into the prisons of the Conciergerie and of the Carmelite Convent.
There she ruled with the same authority and with the same gravity as
once in happier days she had done in the king's palace.
The republic had mixed together the prisoners without any
distinction, and in the hall, where every morning they gathered
together to attend to the roll-call of the condemned who were to
report for the guillotine; in the narrow rooms and cells, where they
passed the rest of the day, the republic had made no distinction
between all these inmates of the prison, dukes and simple knights,
duchesses and baronesses, princesses of the blood and country
nobility of inferior degree. But etiquette was there to remedy this
unseemliness of fate and to re-establish the natural order of
things--etiquette, which had enacted rules and laws for the halls of
kings, enforced them also in the halls of prisons. Only for the
ladies of the most ancient nobility, the duchesses and princesses of
the blood, in the prison-rooms, as once in the king's halls, the
small stool (tabouret) was reserved, and they were privileged to
occupy the rush-bottomed seats which were in the prisons, and which
now replaced the tabouret. No lady of inferior rank would consent to
sit down in their presence unless these ladies of superior rank had
expressly requested and entitled their inferior companions of
misfortune to do so. When, at the appointed hour, the halls were
abandoned for the general promenade in the yards of the
Conciergerie, or in the small cloistered gardens of the Carmelites,
this recreation was preceded by a ceremony which shortened its
already short hour by at least ten minutes: the ladies and the
gentlemen, according to their order, rank, and nobility, placed
themselves in two rows on either side of the outer door, and between
them passed on first in ceremonial order of rank, as at a court-
festival, the ladies and gentlemen who at court were entitled to the
high and small levees, as well as to the tabouret, and to the
kissing of the queen's hand. As they passed, each bowed low, and
then, with the same due observance of rank, as was customary at
court, the ladies and gentlemen of inferior titles followed two by
two, when the higher nobility had passed. [Footnote: "Souvenirs de
la Marquise de Crequi," vol. v].
It was yet the court-society which was assembled here in the rooms
and cells of the prison; only this court-society, this aristocracy,
had no more King Louis to do homage unto, but they served another
king, they bowed low before another queen! This king to whom the
nobility of France belonged was Death; this queen to which proud
heads bowed low was the Guillotine!
It was King Death who now summoned the aristocrats to his court; the
scaffold was the hall of festivity where solemn homage was made to
this king. It would therefore have been against all etiquette to
crowd into this hall of festivity with beclouded countenance; this
would have diminished the respect due to King Death, if he had not
been approached with full-court ceremonial, and with the serene,
easy smile of a courtier. To die, to meet death was now a
distinction, an honor for which each almost envied the other. When
at ten o'clock in the morning the gathering took place in the large
room, the conversation was of the most cheerful and unaffected
easiness; they joked, they laughed, they speculated on politics,
though it was well known that in a few minutes yonder door was to
open, and that on its threshold the jailer would appear, list in
hand; that from this list he would call out with his loud, croaking
voice, as Death's harbinger, the names of those whose death-warrants
had been yesterday signed by Robespierre, and who would have
immediately to leave the hall, to mount the wagons which were
already waiting at the prison's gate to drive them to the
While the jailer read his list, suspense and excitement were visible
on all faces, but no one would have so deeply lowered himself as to
betray fear or anguish when his name fell from the lips of the
jailer. The smile remained on the lip, friends and acquaintances
were bidden farewell with a cheerful salutation, and with easy,
unaffected demeanor they quitted the hall to mount the fatal
To die gracefully was now considered as much bon ton as it had been
once fashionable gracefully to enter the ballroom and do obeisance
to the king; contempt and scorn would have followed him who might
have exhibited a sorrowful mien, hesitation, or fear.
One morning the jailer had read his list, and sixteen gentlemen and
ladies of the aristocracy had consequently to leave the hall of the
Conciergerie to enter both wagons now ready at the gate. As they
were starting for the fatal journey a second turnkey appeared, to
say that through some accident only one of the wagons was ready, and
that consequently only eight of the sentenced ones could be driven
to the guillotine. This meant that the accident nullified eight
death-warrants and saved the lives of eight sentenced persons. For
it was not probable that these eight persons would next morning be
honored with an execution. Their warrants were signed, their names
had been called; neither the tribunal of the revolution nor the
jailer could pay special attention whether their heads had fallen or
not. The next day would bring on new condemnations, new lists, new
distinctions for the wagons, new heads for the guillotine. Whoever,
on the day appointed for the execution, missed the guillotine, could
safely reckon that his life was saved; that henceforth he was
amongst the forgotten ones, of whom a great number filled the
prisons, and who expected their freedom through some favorable
To-day, therefore, only eight of the sixteen condemned were to mount
the wagon. But who were to be the favored ones? The two turnkeys,
with cold indifference, left the choice to the condemned. Only eight
could be accommodated in the wagon, they said, and it was the same
who went or who remained. "Make your choice!"
A strife arose among the sixteen condemned ones--not as to who might
remain behind, but as to those who might mount into the wagon.
The ladies declared that, according to the rules of common
politeness, which allowed ladies to go first, the choice belonged to
them; the gentlemen objected to this motion of the ladies on the
plea that to reach the guillotine steps had to be ascended, and as
etiquette required that in going up-stairs the gentlemen should
always precede the ladies, they were also now entitled to go first
and to mount the steps of the scaffold before the ladies. At last
all had to give way to the claims of the Duchess de Grammont, who
declared that at this festival as at every other the order of rank
was to be observed, and that she, as well as all the gentlemen and
ladies of superior rank, had the undisputed privilege now, as at all
other celebrations, to take the precedency.
No one ventured to oppose this decision, and the Duchess de
Grammont, proud of the victory won, was the first to leave the room
and mount the wagon.
Another time the turnkey began to read the list: every one listened
with grave attention, and at every call a clear, cheerful "Here I
But after the jailer, with wearied voice, had many times repeated a
name from his list, the accustomed answer failed. No one came
forward, no one seemed to be there to lay claim to that name and to
the execution. The jailer stopped a few minutes, and as all were
dumb, he continued, indifferent and unmoved, to call out the names.
"We will then have only fifteen heads to deliver to-day," said he,
after reading the list, "for there must have been a mistake. One of
the names is false, or else the person to whom it belongs has
already been delivered."
"It is probably but a blunder of the pen!" exclaimed a handsome
young man who, smiling, stepped out of the crowd of listeners and
passed on to the side where the victims stood. "You read Chapetolle.
There is no such name here. The hand of the writer was probably
tired of writing the numerous lists of those who are sentenced to
death, and he has therefore written the letters wrong. My name is
Chapelotte, and I am the one meant by Chapetolle."
"I do not know," said the jailer, "but it is certain that sixteen
sentenced ones ought to go into the wagons, and that only fifteen
have reported themselves in a legal way."
"Well, then, add me in an illegal manner to your fifteen," said the
young man, smiling. "Without doubt it is my name they intended to
write. I do not wish to save my life through a blunder in writing,
and who knows if another time I may find such good company as to-day
in your chariot? Allow me then to journey on with my friends."
The jailer had no reason to refuse him this journey, and he had the
satisfaction besides of being thus able to deliver sixteen sentenced
prisoners to the guillotine.
Such was the society of the aristocrats, among whom Josephine lived
the long, dreary days of her imprisonment. The cell she occupied was
shared by two companions of misfortune, the Duchess de Aguillon and
the beautiful Madame de Fontenay, who afterward became Madame
Tallien, so distinguished and renowned for her beauty and wit.
Therese de Fontenay knew, and every one knew, that she was already
sentenced, even if her sentence was not yet written down and
countersigned. It was recorded in the heart of Robespierre. He had
sentenced her, without any concealment. She had but a few weeks more
to endure the martyrdom, the anguish of hope and of expectation. She
was his secure victim; Robespierre needed not hasten the fall of
this beautiful head, which was the admiration of all who saw it.
This beauty was the very crime which Robespierre wanted to punish,
for with this beauty, Therese de Fontenay, who then resided in
Bordeaux with her husband, had captivated the old friend and
associate in sentiments of Robespierre, the fanatical Tallien; with
this beauty she had converted the man of blood and terror into a
soft, compassionate being, inclined to pardon and to mercy toward
Tallien had been sent as commissionnaire from the Convention to
Bordeaux, and there with inexorable severity he had raged against
the unfortunate merchants, from whom he exacted enormous
assessments, and whom he sentenced to the guillotine if they
refused, or were unable to pay. But suddenly love changed the
bloodthirsty tiger into a sensitive being, and the beautiful Madame
de Fontenay, who had become acquainted with Tallien in the prison of
Bordeaux, had worked a complete change in his whole being. For the
first time this man, who unmoved had condemned to death King Louis
and the Girondists, found on his lips the word "pardon;" for the
first time the hand which had signed so many death-warrants wrote
the order to let a prisoner go free.
This prisoner was Therese de Fontenay, the daughter of the Spanish
banker Cabarrus, and she rewarded him for the gift of her life with
a smile which forever made him her captive. From this time the
death-warrants were converted into pardons from his lips, and for
every pardon Therese thanked him with a sweet smile, with a glowing
look of love.
But this leniency was looked upon as criminal by the tribunal of
terror in Paris. They recalled the culprit who dared pardon instead
of punishing; and if Robespierre did not think himself powerful
enough to send Tallien as a traitor and as an apostate to the
scaffold, he punished him for his leniency by separating from him
Therese de Fontenay, who had abandoned the husband forced upon her,
and who had followed Tallien to Paris, and Robespierre had sent her
There, at the Carmelites', was Therese de Fontenay; she occupied the
same cell as Josephine; the same misfortune had made them companions
and friends. They communicated one to the other their hopes and
fears; and when Josephine, with tears in her eyes, spoke to her
friend of her children, of her deep anguish, for they were alone and
abandoned in the world outside of the prison walls, whilst their
unfortunate pitiable mother languished in prison, Therese comforted
and encouraged her.
"So long as one lives there is hope," said Therese, with her
enchanting smile. "Myself, who in the eyes of you all am sentenced
to death, hope--no, I hope not--I am convinced that I will soon
obtain my freedom. And I swear that, as soon as I am free, I will
stir heaven and earth to procure the liberty of my dear friend
Josephine and of her husband the Viscount de Beauharnais, and to
give back to the poor orphaned children their parents."
Josephine answered with an incredulous smile, and a shrugging of the
shoulders; and then Therese's very expressive countenance glowed,
and her large, black eyes flashed deeper gleams.
"You have no faith in me, Josephine," she said, vehemently; "but I
repeat to you, I will soon obtain my freedom, and then I will
procure your liberty and that of your husband."
"But how will you obtain that?" asked Josephine, shaking her head.
"I will ruin Robespierre," said Therese, gravely.
"In what do your means of ruining him consist?"
"In this letter here," said Therese, as she drew out of her bosom a
small paper folded up. "See, this sheet of paper; it consists but of
a few lines which, since they would not furnish me with writing-
materials, I have written with my blood on this sheet of paper,
which I found yesterday in the garden during the promenade. The
turnkey will give this letter to-day to Tallien. He has given me his
word, and I have promised him that Tallien will recompense him
magnificently for it. This letter will ruin Robespierre and make me
free, and then I will procure the freedom of the Viscount and of the
Viscountess de Beauharnais."
"What then, in that letter is the magic word which is to work out
Therese handed the paper to her friend.
"Read," said she, smiling.
Josephine read: "Therese of Fontenay to the citizen Tallien. Either
in eight days I am free and the wife of my deliverer, the noble and
brave Tallien, who will have freed the world from the monster
Robespierre, or else, in eight days, I mount the scaffold; and my
last thought will be a curse for the cowardly, heartless man who has
not had the courage to risk his life for her he loved, and who
suffers for his sake, for his sake meets death--who had not the mind
to consider that with daring deed he must destroy the bloodthirsty
fiend or be ruined by him. Therese de Fontenay will ever love her
Tallien if he delivers her; she will hate him, even in death, if he
sacrifices her to Robespierre's blood-greediness!"
"If, through mishap, Robespierre should receive this letter, then
you and Tallien are lost," sighed Josephine.
"But Tallien, and not Robespierre, will receive it, and I am saved,"
exclaimed Therese. "Therefore, my friend, take courage and be bold.
Wait but eight days patiently. Let us wait and hope."
"Yes, let us wait and hope," sighed Josephine. "Hope and patience
are the only companions of the captive."
Meanwhile the patience of the unfortunate prisoners of the Carmelite
convent were to be subjected to a severe trial; and the very next
day after this conversation with Therese de Fontenay, Josephine
believed that there was no more hope for her, that she was
irrevocably lost, as her husband was lost. For three days she had
not seen the viscount, nor received any news from him. Only a vague
report had reached her that the viscount was no longer in the
Carmelite convent, but that he had been transferred to the
This report told the truth. Alexandre de Beauharnais had once more
been denounced, and this second accusation was his sentence of
death. For some time past the fanatical Jacobins had invented a new
means to find guilty ones for the guillotine, and to keep the veins
bleeding, so as to restore France to health. They sent emissaries
into the prisons to instigate conspiracies among the prisoners, and
to find out men wretched enough to purchase their life by accusing
their prison companions, and by delivering them over to the
executioner's axe. Such a spy had been sent into that portion of the
prison where Beauharnais was, and he had begun his horrible work,
for he had kindled discord and strife among the prisoners, and had
won a few to his sinister projects. But Beauharnais's keen eye had
discovered the traitor, and he had loudly and openly denounced him
to his fellow-prisoners. The next day, the spy disappeared from the
prison, but as he went he swore bloody vengeance on General de
Beauharnais. [Footnote: "Memoires du Comte de Lavalette," vol. i.,
And he kept his word; the next morning De Beauharnais was summoned
for trial, and the gloomy, hateful faces of his judges, their
hostile questions and reproaches, the capital crimes they accused
him of, led him to conclude that his death was decided upon, and
that he was doomed to the guillotine.
In the night which followed his trial, Alexandre de Beauharnais
wrote to his wife a letter, in which he communicated to her his sad
forebodings, and bade her farewell for this life. The next day he
was transferred to the Conciergerie--that is to say, into the
vestibule of the scaffold.
This letter of her husband, received by Josephine the next day after
her conversation with Therese de Fontenay, ran thus:
"The fourth Thermidor, in the second year of the republic. All the
signs of a kind of trial, to which I and other prisoners have been
subjected this day, tell me that I am the victim of the treacherous
calumny of a few aristocrats, patriots so called, of this house. The
mere conjecture that this hellish machination will follow me to the
tribunal of the revolution gives me no hope to see you again, my
friend, no more to embrace you or our children. I speak not of my
sorrow: my tender solicitude for you, the heartfelt affection which
unites me to you, cannot leave you in doubt of the sentiments with
which I leave this life.
"I am also sorry to have to part with my country, which I love, for
which I would a thousand times have laid down my life, and which I
no more can serve, but which beholds me now quit her bosom, since
she considers me to be a bad citizen. This heart-rending thought
does not allow me to commend my memory to you; labor, then, to make
it pure in proving that a life which has been devoted to the service
of the country, and to the triumph of liberty and equality, must
punish that abominable slanderer, especially when he comes from a
suspicious class of men. But this labor must be postponed; for in
the storms of revolution, a great people, struggling to reduce its
chains to dust, must of necessity surround itself with suspicion,
and be more afraid to forget a guilty man than to put an innocent
one to death.
"I will die with that calmness which allows man to feel emotion at
the thought of his dearest inclinations--I will die with that
courage which is the distinctive feature of a free man, of a clear
conscience, of an exalted soul, whose highest wishes are the
prosperity and growth of the republic.
"Farewell, my friend; gather consolation from my children; derive
comfort in educating them, in teaching them that, by their virtues
and their devotion to their country, they obliterate the memory of
my execution, and recall to national gratitude my services and my
claims. Farewell to those I love: you know them! Be their
consolation, and through your solicitude for them prolong my life in
their hearts! Farewell! for the last time in this life I press you
and my children to my heart!--ALEXANDRE BEAUHARNAIS."
Josephine had read this letter with a thousand tears, but she hoped
still; she believed still in the possibility that the gloomy
forebodings of her husband would not be realized; that some
fortunate circumstance would save him or at least retard his death.
But this hope was not to be fulfilled. A few hours after receiving
this letter the turnkey brought to the prisoners the bulletin of the
executions of the preceding day. It was that day Josephine's turn to
read this bulletin to her companions. She therefore began her sad
task; and, as slowly and thoughtfully she let fall name after name
from her lips, here and there the faces of her hearers were
blanched, and their eyes filled with tears.
Suddenly Josephine uttered a piercing cry, and sprang up with the
movement of madness toward the door, shook it in her deathly sorrow,
as if her life hung upon the opening of that door, and then she sank
Unfortunate Josephine! she had seen in the list of those who had
been executed the name of General Beauharnais, and in the first
excitement of horror she wanted to rush out to see him, or at least
to give to his body the parting kiss.
On the sixth Thermidor, in the year II., that is, on the 24th of
July, 1794, fell on the scaffold the head of the General Viscount de
Beauharnais. With quiet, composed coolness he had ascended the
scaffold, and his last cry, as he laid his head on the block, was,
"Long live the republic!"
In the wagon which drove him to the scaffold, he had found again a
friend, the Prince de Salm-Kirbourg, who was now on his way to the
guillotine, and who had risked his life in bringing back to Paris
the children of Josephine.
His bloodthirsty enemies had not enough of the head of General
Beauharnais; his wife's head also should fall, and the name of the
traitor of his country was to be extinguished forever.
Two days after the execution of her husband, the turnkey brought to
Josephine the writ of her accusation, and the summons to appear
before the tribunal of the revolution--a summons which then had all
the significancy of a death-warrant.
Josephine heard the summons of the jailer with a quiet, easy smile;
she had not even a look for the fatal paper which lay on her bed.
Near this bed stood the physician, whom the compassionate republic,
which would not leave its prisoners to die on a sick-bed, but only
on the scaffold, had sent to Josephine to inquire into her illness
and afford her relief.
With indignation he eagerly snatched the paper from the bed, and,
returning it back to the jailer, exclaimed: "Tell the tribunal of
the revolution that it has nothing more to do with this woman!
Disease will bring on justice here, and leave nothing to do for the
guillotine. In eight days Citoyenne Beauharnais is dead!" [Footnote:
Aubenas, "Histoire de l'Imperatrice Josephine," vol. i., p. 235.]
This decision of the physician was transmitted to the tribunal,
which resolved that the trial of Madame Beauharnais would be
postponed for eight days, and that the tribunal would wait and see
if truly death would save her from the guillotine.
Meanwhile, during these eight days, events were to pass which were
to give a very different form to the state of things, and impart to
the young republic a new, unexpected attitude.
Robespierre ruled yet, he was the feared dictator of France! But
Tallien had received the note of his beautiful, fondly-loved
Therese, and he swore to himself that she should not ascend the
scaffold, that she should not curse him, that he would possess her,
that he would win her love, and destroy the fiend who stood in the
way of his happiness, whose blood-streaming hands were every day
ready to sign her death-warrant.
On the very same day in which he received the letter of Therese, he
conversed with a few trusty friends, men whom he knew detested
Robespierre as much as himself, and who all longed for an occasion
to destroy him. They planned a scheme of attack against the dictator
who imperilled the life of all, and from whom it was consequently
necessary to take away life and power, so as to be sure of one's
life. It was decided to launch an accusation against him before the
whole Convention, to incriminate him as striving after dominion, as
desirous of breaking the republic with his bloody hands, and
ambitious to exalt himself into dictator and sovereign. Tallien
undertook to fulminate this accusation against him, and they all
agreed to wait yet a few days so as to gain amongst the deputies in
the Convention some members who would support the accusation and
give countenance to the conspirators. On the ninth Thermidor this
scheme was to be carried out; on the ninth Thermidor, Tallien was to
thunder forth the accusation against Robespierre and move his
This enterprise, however, seemed a folly, an impossibility, for at
this time Robespierre was at the height of his power, and fear
weighed upon the whole republic as a universal agony. No one dared
oppose Robespierre, for a look from his eye, a sign from his hand
sufficed to bring death, to lead to the scaffold.
The calm, peaceful, and united republic for which Robespierre had
toiled, which had been the ultimate end of his bloodthirstiness, was
at last there, but this republic was built upon corpses, was
baptized with streams of blood and tears. And now that the republic
had given up all opposition, now that she bowed, trembling under the
hand of her conqueror, now, Robespierre wanted to make her happy, he
wanted to give her what the storms of past years had ravished from
her--he wanted to give the republic a God! On the tribune of the
Convention, on this tribune which was his throne, rose Robespierre,
to tell with grave dignity to the republic that there was a Supreme
Being, that the soul of man was immortal. Then, accompanied by the
Convention, he proceeded to the Champ de Mars, to inaugurate the
celebration of the worship of a Supreme Being as his high-priest.
But amid this triumph, on his way to the Champ de Mars, Robespierre
the conqueror had for the first time noticed the murmurs of the
Tarpeian rock; he had noticed the dark, threatening glances which
were directed at him from all sides. He felt the danger which
menaced him, and he was determined to remove it from his person by
annihilating those who threatened.
But already terror had lost its power, no one trembled before the
guillotine, no one took pleasure in the fall of the axe, in the
streams of blood, which empurpled the Place de la Revolution. The
fearful stillness of death hung round the guillotine, the people
were tired of applauding it, and now and then from the silent ranks
of the people thundered forth in threatening accents the word
"tyrant!" which, as the first weapon of attack, was directed against
Robespierre, who, on the heights of the tribune, was throned with
his unmoved, calm countenance.
Robespierre felt that he must strike a heavy, decisive blow against
his foes and annihilate them. On the eighth Thermidor, he denounced
a plot organized by his enemies for breaking up the Convention.
Through St. Just he implicated as leaders of this conspiracy some
eminent members of the committees, and requested their dismissal.
But the time was past when his motions were received with jubilant
acclamations, and unconditionally obeyed. The Convention decided to
submit the motion of Robespierre to a vote, and the matter was
postponed to the next morning's session.
In the night which preceded the contemplated action of the
Convention, Robespierre went to the Jacobin Club and requested
assistance against his enemies in the Convention. He was received
with enthusiasm, and a general uprising of the revolutionary element
was decided upon, and organized for the following morning.
The same night, Tallien, his friends and adherents, met together,
and the mode of attack for the following day, the ninth Thermidor,
was discussed, and the parts assigned to each.
The prisoners in the Carmelite convent did not of course suspect any
thing of the events which were preparing beyond the walls of their
prison. Even Therese de Fontenay was low-spirited and sad; for this
day, the ninth Thermidor, was the last day of respite fixed by her
to Tallien for her liberty.
This was also the last day of respite which had saved Josephine from
the tribunal of the revolution, through the decision of her
physician. Death had spared her head, but now it belonged to the
executioner. The captives feared the event, and they were confirmed
in this fear by the jailer, who, on the morning of the ninth
Thermidor, entered the room which Josephine, the Duchess
d'Aiguillon, and Therese de Fontenay occupied, and who removed the
camp-bed which Josephine had hitherto used as a sofa, to give it to
"How," exclaimed the Duchess d'Aiguillon, "do you want to give this
bed to another prisoner? Is Madame de Beauharnais to have a better
The turnkey burst into a coarse laugh. "Alas! no," said he, with a
significant gesture, "Citoyenne Beauharnais will soon need a bed no
Her friends broke into tears; but Josephine remained composed and
quite. At this decisive moment a fearful self-possession and
calmness came over her; all sufferings and sorrow appeared to have
sunk away, all anxiety and care seemed overcome, and a radiant smile
illumined Josephine's features, for, through a wondrous association
of ideas, she suddenly remembered the prophecy of the negro-woman in
"Be calm, my friends," said she, smiling; "weep not, do not consider
me as destined to the scaffold, for I assure you I am going to live:
I must not die, for I am destined to be one day the sovereign of
France. Therefore, no more tears! I am the future Queen of France!"
"Ah!" exclaimed the Duchess d'Aiguillon, half angry and half sad,
"why not at once appoint your state dignitaries?"
"You are right," said Josephine, eagerly; "this is the best time to
do so. Well, then, my dear duchess, I now appoint you to be my maid
of honor, and I swear it will be so."
"My God! she is mad!" exclaimed the duchess, and, nearly fainting,
she sank upon her chair.
Josephine laughed, and opened the window to admit some fresh air.
She perceived there below in the street a woman making to her all
manner of signs and gestures. She lifted up her arms, she then took
hold of her dress, and with her hand pointed to her robe.
It was evident that she wished through these signs and motions to
convey some word to the prisoners, whom perhaps she knew, for she
repeatedly took hold of her robe with one hand, and pointed at it
with the other.
"Robe?" cried out Josephine interrogatively.
The woman nodded in the affirmative, then took up a stone, which she
held up to the prisoner's view.
"Pierre?" ask Josephine.
The woman again nodded in the affirmative, and then placed the stone
(pierre) in her robe, made several times the motion of falling, then
of cutting off the neck, and then danced and clapped her hands.
"My friends," cried Josephine, struck with a sudden thought, "this
woman brings us good news, she tells us Robespierre est tombe."
(Robespierre has fallen.)
"Yes, it is so," exclaimed Therese, triumphantly; "Tallien has kept
his word; he conquers, and Robespierre is thrust down!"
And, overpowered with joy and emotion, the three women, weeping,
sank into each other's arms.
They now heard from without loud cries and shouts. It was the
jailer, quarrelling with his refractory dog. The dog howled, and
wanted to go out with his master, but the jailer kicked him back,
saying: "Away, go to the accursed Robespierre!"
Soon joyous voices resounded through the corridor; the door of their
cell was violently opened, and a few municipal officers entered to
announce to the Citizeness Madame Fontenay that she was free, and
bade her accompany them into the carriage waiting below to drive her
to the house of Citizen Tallien. Behind them pressed the prisoners
who, from the reception-room, had followed the authorities, to
entreat them to give them the news of the events in Paris.
There was now no reason for the municipal authorities to make a
secret of the events which at this hour occupied all Paris, and
which would soon be welcomed throughout France as the morning dawn
of a new day.
Robespierre had indeed fallen! Tallien and his friends had in the
Convention brought against the despot the accusation that he was
striving for the sovereign power, and that he had enthroned a
Supreme Being merely to proclaim himself afterward His visible
representative, and to take all power in his own hands. When
Robespierre had endeavored to justify himself, he had been dragged
away from the speaker's tribune; and, as he defended himself,
Tallien had drawn a dagger on Robespierre, and was prevented from
killing the tyrant by a few friends, who by main force turned the
dagger away. Immediately after this scene, the Convention decided to
arrest Robespierre and his friends Couthon and St. Just; and the
prisoners, among whom Robespierre's younger brother had willingly
placed himself, were led away to the Luxemburg. [Footnote: The next
day, on the tenth Thermidor, Robespierre, who in the night had
attempted to put an end to his life with a pistol, was executed with
twenty-one companions. His brother was among the number of the
The prisoners welcomed this news with delight; for with the fall of
Robespierre, had probably sounded for them the hour of deliverance,
and they could hope that their prison's door would soon be opened,
not to be led to the scaffold, but to obtain their freedom.
Therese de Fontenay, with the messengers sent by Tallien, left the
Carmelite cloisters to fulfil the promise made by her to Tallien in
her letter, to become his wife, and to pass at his side new days of
happiness and love.
She embraced Josephine tenderly as she bade her farewell, and
renewed to her the assurance that she would consider it her dearest
and most sacred duty to obtain her friend's liberty.
In the evening of the same day, Josephine's camp-bed was restored to
her; and, stretching herself upon it with intense delight, she said
smilingly to her friends: "You see, I am not yet guillotined; I will
be Queen of France." [Footnote: "Memoires sur l'Imperatrice
Josephine," ch. xxxiii.]
Therese de Fontenay, now Citoyenne Tallien, kept her word. Three
days after obtaining her liberty, she came herself to fetch
Josephine out of prison. Her soft, mild disposition had resumed its
old spell over Tallien, whom the Convention had appointed president
of the Committee of Safety. The death-warrants signed by Robespierre
were annulled, and the prisons were opened, to restore to hundreds
of accused life and liberty. The bloody and tearful episode of the
revolution had closed with the fall of Robespierre, and on the ninth
Thermidor the republic assumed a new phase.
Josephine was free once more! With tears of bliss she embraced her
two children, her dear darlings, found again! In pressing her
offspring to her heart with deep, holy emotion, she thought of their
father, who had loved them both so much, who had committed to her
the sacred trust of keeping alive in the hearts of his children love
for their father.
Encircling still her children in her arms, she bowed them on their
knees; and, lifting up to heaven her eyes, moist with tears, she
whispered to them: "Let us pray, children; let us lift up our
thoughts to heaven, where your father is, and whence he looks down
upon us to bless his children."
Josephine delayed not much longer in Paris, where the air was yet
damp with the blood of so many murdered ones; where the guillotine,
on which her husband had died, lifted yet its threatening head. She
hastened with her children to Fontainebleau, there to rest from her
sorrows on the heart of her father-in-law, to weep with him on the
loss they both had suffered.
The dream of her first youth and of her first love had passed away,
and to the father of her beheaded husband Josephine returned a
widow; rich in gloomy, painful experiences, poor in hopes, but with
a stout heart, and a determination to live, and to be at once a
father and a mother to her children.
THE WIFE OF GENERAL BONAPARTE.
BONAPARTE IN CORSICA.
The civil war which for four years had devastated France had also
with its destruction and its terrors overspread the French colonies,
and in Martinique as well as in Corsica two parties stood opposed to
each other in infuriated bitterness--one fighting for the rights of
the native land, the other for the rights of the French people, for
the "liberty, equality, and fraternity" which the Convention in
Paris had adopted for its motto, since it delivered to the
guillotine, on the Place de la Revolution, the heads of those who
dared lay claim for themselves to this liberty of thought so
In Corsica both parties fought with the same eagerness as in France,
and the execution of Louis XVI. had only made the contest more
violent and more bitter.
One of these parties looked with horror on this guillotine which had
drunk the blood of the king, and this party desired to have nothing
in common with this French republic, with this blood-streaming
Convention which had made of terror a law, and which had destroyed
so many lives in the name of liberty.
At the head of this party stood the General Pascal Paoli, whom the
revolution had recalled to his native isle from his exile of twenty
years, and who objected that Corsica should bend obediently under
the blood-stained hand of the French Convention, and whose wish it
was that the isle should be an independent province of the great
To exalt Corsica into a free, independent republic had been the idea
of his whole life. For the sake of this idea he had passed twenty
years in exile; for, after having made Corsica independent of Genoa,
he had not been able to obtain for his native isle that independence
for which he had fought with his brave Genoese troops. During eight
years he had perseveringly maintained the conflict--during eight
years he had been the ruler of Corsica, but immovable in his
republican principles; he had rejected the title of king, which the
Corsican people, grateful for the services rendered to their
fatherland, had offered him. He had been satisfied to be the first
and most zealous servant of the island, which, through his efforts,
had been liberated from the tyrannical dominion of Genoa. But
Genoa's appeal for assistance had brought French troops to Corsica;
the Genoese, harassed and defeated everywhere by Paoli's brave
troops, had finally transferred the island to France. This was not
what Paoli wanted--this was not for what he had fought!
Corsica was to be a free and independent republic; she was to bow no
more to France than to Genoa; Corsica was to be free.
In vain did the French government make to General Paoli the most
brilliant offers; he rejected them; he called the Corsicans to the
most energetic resistance to the French occupation; and when he saw
that opposition was in vain, that Corsica had to submit, he at least
would not yield, and he went to England.
The cry for liberty which, in the year 1790, resounded from France,
and which made the whole world tremble, brought him back from
England to Corsica, and he took the oath of allegiance to free,
democratic France. But the blood of the king had annulled this oath,
the Convention's reign of terror had filled his soul with horror;
and, after solemnly separating himself from France, he had, in the
year 1793, convoked a Consulta, to decide whether Corsica was to
submit to the despotism of the French republic, or if it was to be a
free and independent state. The Consulta chose the latter position,
and named Paoli for president as well as for general-in-chief of the
The National Convention at once called the culprit to its bar, and
ordered him to Paris to justify his conduct, or to receive the
punishment due. But General Paoli paid no attention to the imperious
orders of the Convention, which, as the chief appeared not at its
bar, declared him, on the 15th of May, 1793, a traitor to his
country, and sent commissioners to Corsica to arrest the criminal.
This traitor to the state, the General Pascal Paoli, was then at the
head of the Moderate party in Corsica, and he loudly and solemnly
declared that, in case of absolute necessity, it would be preferable
to call England to their assistance than to accept the yoke of the
French republic, which had desecrated her liberty, since she had
soiled it with the blood of so many innocent victims.
But in opposition to General Paoli rose up with wild clamor the
other party, the party of young, enthusiastic heads, who were
intoxicated with the democratic ideas which had obtained the sway in
France, and which they imagined, so great was their impassioned
devotedness to them, possessed the power and the ability to conquer
the whole world.
At the head of this second party, which claimed unconditional
adherence to France, to the members of the Convention--at the head
of this fanatical, Corsican, republican, and Jacobin party, stood
the Bonaparte family, and above them all the two brothers Joseph and
Joseph was now, in the year 1793, chief justice of the tribunal of
Ajaccio; Napoleon, who was captain of artillery in the French army
of Italy, had then obtained leave of absence to visit his family.
Both brothers had been hitherto the most affectionate and intimate
admirers of Paoli, and especially Napoleon, who, from his earliest
childhood, had cherished the most unbounded admiration for the
patriot who preferred exile to a dependent grandeur in Corsica. Even
now, since Paoli's return to Corsica, and Napoleon had had many
opportunities to see him, his admiration. for the great chief had
lost nothing of its force or vitality. Paoli seemed sincerely to
return this inclination of Napoleon and of his brother, and in the
long evening walks, which both brothers made with him, Napoleon's
mind opened itself, before his old, experienced companion, the great
general, the noble republican, with a freedom and a candor such as
he had never manifested to others. With subdued admiration Paoli
listened to his short, energetic explanations, to his descriptions,
to his war-schemes, to his warm enthusiasm for the republic; and one
day, carried away by the warmth of the young captain of artillery,
the general, fixing his glowing eyes upon him, exclaimed: "Young
man, you are modelled after the antique; you belong to Plutarch!"
"And to General Paoli!" replied Napoleon, eagerly, as he pressed his
friend's hand affectionately in his own.
But now this harmonious concord between General Paoli and the young
men was destroyed by the passion of party views. Joseph as well as
Napoleon belonged to the French party; they soon became its leaders;
they were at the head of the club which they had organized according
to the maxims and principles of the Jacobin Club in Paris, and to
which they gave the same name.
In this Jacobin Club at Ajaccio Napoleon made speeches full of
glowing enthusiasm for the French republic, for the ideas of
freedom; in this club he enjoined on the people of Corsica to adhere
loyally to France, to keep fast and to defend with life and blood
the acquired liberty of republican France, to regard and drive away
as traitors to their country all those who dared guide the Corsican
people on another track.
But the Corsican people were not there to hear the enthusiastic
speeches about liberty and to follow them. Only a few hundred ardent
republicans of the same sentiment applauded the republican Napoleon,
and cried aloud that the republic must be defended with blood and
life. The majority of the Corsican people flocked to Paoli, and the
commissioners sent by the Convention from Paris to Corsica, to
depose and arrest Paoli, found co-operation and assistance only
among the inhabitants of the cities and among the French troops.
Paoli, the president of the Consulta, was located at Corte; the
messengers of the Convention gathered in Bastia the adherents of
France, and excited them to strenuous efforts against the rebellious
Consulta and the insurgent Paoli.
Civil war with all its horrors was there; the raging conflicts of
the parties tore apart the holy bonds of family, friendship, and
love. Brother fought and argued against brother, friend rose up
against friend, and whole families were destroyed, rent asunder by
the impassioned rivalries of sentiment and partisanship.
Denunciations and accusations, suspicions and enmities, followed.
Every one trembled at his own shadow; and, to turn aside the peril
of death, it was necessary to strike. [Footnote: "Memoires du Roi
Joseph," vol. i., p. 51.]
The Bonaparte brothers opposed General Paoli with violent
bitterness; bloody conflicts took place, in which the national
Corsican party remained victorious. Irritated and embittered by the
opposition which some of the natives themselves were making to his
patriotic efforts, Paoli persecuted with zealous activity the
conquered, whom he resolved to destroy, that they might not imperil
the young Corsican independence. Joseph and Napoleon Bonaparte were
the leaders of this party, and Paoli knew too well the energy and
the intellectual superiority of Napoleon not to dread his influence.
Him, above all things, him and his family, must he render harmless,
so as to weaken and to intimidate the French party. He sent agents
to Ajaccio, to arrest the whole Bonaparte family, and at the same
time his troops approached the town to occupy it and make the French
commissioners prisoners. But these latter, informed in time of the
danger, had gained time and saved themselves on board the French
frigate lying in the harbor, and with them the whole Bonaparte
family had embarked. Napoleon, on whom the attention of Paoli's
agents had been specially directed, was more than once in danger of
being seized by them, and it was due to the advice of a friend that,
disguised as a sailor, he saved himself in time on board the French
frigate and joined his family. [Footnote: "Memoires de la Duchess
d'Abrantes," vol. i.] The commissioners of the Convention at once
ordered the anchor to be weighed, and to steer toward France.
This frigate, on board of which the Bonaparte family in its flight
had embarked, carried to France the future emperor and his fortune.
The house, the possessions of the Bonaparte family, fell a prey to
the conquerors, and on them they gave vent to their vengeance for
the successful escape of the fugitives. A witness of these facts is
a certificate which Joseph Bonaparte a few months later procured
from Corsica, and which ran as follows:
"I, the undersigned, Louis Conti, procurator-syndic of the district
of Ajaccio, department of Corsica, declare and certify: in the month
of May of this year, when General Paoli and the administration of
the department had sent into the city of Ajaccio armed troops, in
concert with other traitors in the city, took possession of the
fortress, drove away the administration of the district,
incarcerated a large portion of the patriots, disarmed the
republican forces, and, when these refused to give up the
commissioners of the National Convention, Paoli's troops fired upon
the vessel which carried these commissioners:
"That these rebels endeavored to seize the Bonaparte family, which
had the good fortune to elude their pursuit:
"That they destroyed, plundered, and burnt everything which belonged
to this family, whose sole crime consisted in their unswerving
fidelity to the republicans, and in their refusal to take any part
in the scheme of isolation, rebellion, and disloyalty, of which
Paoli and the administration of the department had become guilty.
"I moreover declare and certify that this family, consisting of ten
individuals, and who stood high in the esteem of the people of the
island, possessed the largest property in the whole department, and
that now they are on the continent of the republic.
"(Signed) CONTI, Proc.-Synd. Delivered on the 5th of September,
1793, Year II. of the republic." [Footnote: "Memoires du Roi
Joseph," vol. i., p. 52.]
Paoli, the conqueror of the French republic, the patriotic enemy of
the Bonaparte family, drove Napoleon Bonaparte from his native soil!
The cannon of the Corsican patriots fired upon the ship on which the
future emperor of the French was steering toward his future empire!
But this future lay still in an invisible, cloudy distance--of one
thing, however, was the young captain of artillery fully conscious:
from this hour he had broken with the past, and, by his dangers and
conflicts, by the sacrifice of his family's property, by his flight
from Corsica, given to the world a solemn testimony that he
recognized no other country, that he owed allegiance to no other
nation than to France. He had proved that his feelings were not
Corsican, but French.
The days of his childhood and youth sank away behind him, with the
deepening shadows of the island of Corsica, and the shores which
rose before him on the horizon were the shores of France. There lay
his future--his empire!
NAPOLEON BONAPARTE BEFORE TOULON.
Whilst Paris, yet trembling, bowed under the bloody rule of the
Convention, a spirit of opposition and horror began to stir in the
provinces; fear of the terrorists, of the Convention, began to
kindle the courage, to make defiance to these men of horror, and to
put an end to terrorism. The province of Vendee, in her faithfulness
and loyalty to the royal family, arose in deadly conflict against
the republicans; the large cities of the south, with Toulon at their
head, had shielded themselves from the horrors which the home
government would have brought them, by uniting with the enemies who
now from all sides pressed upon France.
Toulon gave itself up to the combined fleet of England and Spain.
Marseilles, Lyons, and Nismes, contracted an alliance together, and
declared their independence of the Convention and of the terrorists.
Everywhere in all the cities and communities of the south the people
rose up, and seditions and rebellions took place. Everywhere the
Convention had to send its troops to re-establish peace by force,
and to compel the people to submit to its rule. Whole army corps had
to be raised to win back to the republic the rebellious cities, and
only after hard fighting did General Carteaux subdue Marseilles.
But Toulon held out still, and within its protecting walls had the
majority of the inhabitants of Marseilles taken refuge before the
wrath of the Convention, which had already sent to the latter some
of its representatives, to establish there the destructive work of
the guillotine. Toulon offered them safety; it seemed impregnable,
as much by its situation as by the number and strength of its
defenders. It could also defy any siege, since the sea was open, and
it could by this channel be provisioned through the English and
No one trembled before the little army of seventeen thousand men
which, under General Carteaux, had invested Toulon.
But in this little army of the republicans was a young soldier whom
yet none knew, none feared, but whose fame was soon to resound
throughout the world, and before whom all Europe was soon
tremblingly to bow.
This young man was Napoleon Bonaparte, the captain of artillery. He
had come from Italy (where his regiment was) to France, to make
there, by order of his general, some purchases for the park of
artillery of the Italian army. But some of the people's
representatives had had an opportunity of recognizing the sharp eye
and the military acquirements of the young captain of artillery;
they interceded in his favor, and he was promoted to the army corps
which was before Toulon, and at once sent in the capacity of
assistant to General Carteaux, with whom also was Napoleon's brother
Joseph, as chief of the general's staff.
From this moment the siege, which until now had not progressed
favorably, was pushed on with renewed energy, and it was due to the
cautious activity, the daring spirit of the captain of artillery,
that marked advantages were gained over the English, and that from
them many redoubts were taken, and the lines of the French drawn
closer and closer to the besieged city.
But yet, after many months of siege, Toulon held out still. From the
sea came provisions and ammunition, and on the land-side Toulon was
protected against capture by a fort occupied by English troops, and
which, on account of its impregnable position, was called "Little
Gibraltar." From this position hot-balls and howitzers had free
range all over the seaboard, for this fort stood between the two
harbors of the city and immediately opposite Toulon. The English,
fully appreciating the importance of the position, had occupied it
with six thousand men, and surrounded it with intrenchments.
It came to this, as Napoleon in a council of war declared to the
general, that the English must be driven out of their position;
then, when this fort was taken, in two days Toulon must yield.
The plan was decided upon, and from this moment the besiegers
directed all their strength no more against Toulon, but against the
important fort, "Little Gibraltar," "for there," as Napoleon said,
"there was the key to Toulon."
All Europe now watched with intense anxiety the events near Toulon;
all France, which hitherto with divided sentiments had wished the
victory to side now with the besieged, now with the besiegers,
forgot its differences of opinion, and was united in the one wish to
expel the hated enemy and rival, the English, from the French city,
and to crown the efforts of the French army with victory.
The Convention, irritated that its orders should not have been
immediately carried out, had in its despotic power recalled from his
command General Carteaux, who could not succeed in capturing Toulon,
and had appointed as chief of battalion the young captain of
artillery, Napoleon Bonaparte, on account of his bravery in
capturing some dangerous redoubts. The successor of Carteaux, the
old General Dugommier, recognizing the superior mind of the young
chief of battalion, willingly followed his plans, and was readily
guided and led by the surer insight of the young man.
The position of new Gibraltar had to be conquered so as to secure
the fall of Toulon; such was, such remained Napoleon's unswerving
judgment. No effort, no cost, no blood, was to be spared to attain
this result. He placed new batteries against the fort; stormed the
forts Malbosquet and Ronge; a terrible struggle ensued, in which the
English General O'Hara was taken prisoner by the French, and the
English had to leave the fort and retreat into the city.
The first great advantage was won, but Little Gibraltar remained
still in the hands of the English, and Napoleon desired, and felt it
as an obligation, to subdue it at any price.
But already the Convention began to be discouraged, and to lose
energy, and the deputies of the people, Barras and Freron, who until
now had remained with the besieging army, hastened to Paris to
implore the Convention to give up the siege, and to recall the army
But before they reached Paris the matter was to be decided before
Toulon. The fate of the Little Gibraltar was to be fulfilled; it was
to be taken, or in the storming of it the French army was to perish.
Thousands of shells were thrown into the fort, thirty cannon
thundered against it. Napoleon Bonaparte mixed with the
artillerymen, encouraged by his bold words their activity, their
energy, and their bravery, and pointed to them the spots where to
direct their balls. Whilst he was in conversation with one of the
cannoneers near whom he stood, a cannon-ball from the English tore
away the head of the artilleryman who had just lifted up the match
to fire his cannon.
Napoleon quietly took up the burning match out of the hand of the
dead man, and discharged the gun. Then, with all the zeal and tact
of an experienced cannoneer, he began to load the piece, to send
forth its balls against the enemy and for many hours he remained at
this post, until another artilleryman was found to relieve the chief
of division. [Footnote: This brave action of Napoleon was to have
for him evil results. The cannoneer, from whose hand he took the
match, was suffering from the most distressing skin-disease,
generally breaking out with the greatest violence in the hand. The
match which the cannoneer had for hours held in his hand was yet
warm with its pressure, and imparted to Napoleon's hand the poison
of the contagious disease. For years he had to endure the eruption,
which he could not conquer, as he had conquered nations and princes,
but to its destructive and painful power he had to subdue his body.
The nervous agitations to which he was subject, the shrugging of his
right shoulder, the white-greenish complexion of his face, the
leanness of his body, were all consequences of this disease. It was
only when Napoleon had become emperor, that Corvisart succeeded, by
his eloquence, in persuading him to follow a regular course of
treatment. This treatment cured him; his white-greenish complexion
and his leanness disappeared. The nervous movement of the shoulder
remained, and became a habit.--See "Memoires de Constant," vol. i.]
But whilst Napoleon made himself a cannoneer in the service of his
country, he remained at the same time the chief of division, whose
attention was everywhere, whose eagle glance nothing escaped, and
who knew how to improve every advantage.
A body of troops was at a distant point, and Bonaparte wanted to
send them an important order. Whilst loading his cannon, he called
aloud to an under-officer to whom he might dictate the dispatch. A
young man hastened to the call, and said he was ready to write. Upon
a mound of sand he unfolded his pocket-book, drew out of it a piece
of paper, and began to write what Napoleon, with a voice above the
cannon's roar, was dictating to him. At this very moment, as the
order was written, a cannon-ball fell quite near the officer,
burrowing the ground, and scattering some of the light sand over the
written paper. The young man raised his hat and made a bow to the
cannon-ball, that buried itself in the sand.
"I thank you," said he, "you have saved me sand for my paper."
Napoleon smiled, and looked with a joyous, sympathizing glance at
the young officer, whose handsome pleasing countenance was radiant
with bold daring and harmless merriment.
"Now, I need a brave messenger to carry this order to that exposed
detachment," said Napoleon.
"I will be the messenger," cried out the officer, eagerly.
"Well, I accept you, but you must remove your uniform, and put on a
blouse, so as not to be too much exposed."
"That I will not do," exclaimed the young man. "I am no spy."
"What! you refuse to obey?" asked Napoleon, threateningly.
"No, I refuse to assume a disguise," answered the officer "I am
ready to obey, and even to carry the order into the very hands of
the devil. But with my uniform I go, otherwise those cursed
Englishmen might well imagine that I am afraid of them."
"But you imperil your life if you go in your glittering uniform."
"My life does not belong to me," cried out gayly the young soldier.
"Who cares if I risk it? You will not be sorry about it, for you
know me not, citizen-officer, and it is all the same to me. Shall I
not go in my uniform? I should be delighted to encounter those
English gentlemen, for, with my sword and the sprightly grains in my
patron's pocket, the conversation will not sleep, I vow. Now, then,
shall I go, citizen-officer?"
"Go," said Napoleon, smiling. "But you are wrong if you think I will
not be sorry in case you pay this duty with your life. You are a
brave fellow, and I love the brave. Go; but first tell me your name,
that when you return I may tell General Dugommier what name he has
to inscribe in his papers of recommendation for officers; that will
be the reward for your message."
"My name is Junot, citizen-officer," exclaimed the young man as,
swinging the paper in his hand, he darted away eagerly.
The roar of the cannon was still heard, when Napoleon's messenger
returned, after a few hours, and reported to him. The chief of
division received him with a friendly motion of his head.
"Welcome, Junot," said he. "I am glad to see you back, and that you
have successfully accomplished your task. I must now make a change
of position in yonder battallion. To-morrow I will give you your
commission of lieutenant, citizen-soldier."
"And to-day grant me a nobler reward, citizen-officer," said the
young man, tenderly; "give me your hand, and allow me to press it in
Napoleon, smiling, gave him his hand. The eyes of both young men met
in radiant looks, and with these looks was sealed the covenant which
united them both in a friendship enduring to the tomb. For not one
of his companions-in-arms remained attached to Napoleon with so
warm, true, nearly impassioned tenderness as Junot, and none of them
was by the general, the consul, the emperor, more implicitly
trusted, more heartily beloved than his Junot, whom he exalted to
the ranks of general, governor of Lisbon, Duke d'Abrantes, who was
one of the few to whom in his days of glory he allowed to speak to
him in all truth, in all freedom, and without reserve.
But whilst the two young men were sealing this covenant of
friendship with this look of spiritual recognition, the cannon was
thundering forth on all sides. The earth trembled from the reports
of the pieces; all the elements seemed unloosed; the storm howled as
if to mingle the noise of human strife with the uproar of Nature;
the sea dashed its frothy, mound-like waves with terrible noise on
the shore; the rain poured down from the skies in immense torrents,
and everything around was veiled in mists of dampness and smoke. And
amid all this, crackled, thundered, and hissed the shells which were
directed against Little Gibraltar, or whizzed from Toulon, to bring
death and destruction among the besiegers.
Night sank down, and yet Little Gibraltar was not taken. "I am
lost," sighed General Dugommier. "I shall have to pay with my head,
if we are forced to retreat."
"Then we must go forward," cried Bonaparte; "we must have Little
An hour after, a loud cry of victory announced to General Dugommier
that the chief of division had reached his aim, that Little
Gibraltar was captured by the French.
As the day began to dawn, the French had already captured two other
forts; and Bonaparte roused all his energies to fire from Little
Gibraltar upon the enemy's fleet. But the English admiral, Lord
Hood, knew very well the terrible danger to which he was exposed if
he did not at once weigh anchor.
The chief of division had prophesied correctly: in Little Gibraltar
was the key of Toulon; and since the French had now seized the keys,
the English ships could no longer close the city against them.
Toulon was lost--it had to surrender to the conquerors. [Footnote:
Toulon fell on the 18th of December, 1793.]
It is true, defensive operations were still carried on, but
Napoleon's balls scattered death and ruin into the city; the
bursting of shells brought destruction and suffering everywhere, and
in the city as well as in the harbor columns of flames arose from
houses and ships.
Toulon was subdued; and the chief of division, Napoleon Bonaparte,
had achieved his first brilliant pass of arms before jubilant France
and astonished Europe; he had made his name shine out from the
obscurity of the past, and placed it on the pages of history.
The Convention showed itself thankful to the daring soldier, who had
won such a brilliant victory alike over the foreign as well as over
the internal enemies of the republic; and Napoleon Bonaparte, the
chief of division, was now promoted to the generalship of division.
He accepted the nomination with a quiet smile. The wondrous
brilliancy of his eyes betrayed only to a few friends and confidants
the important resolves and thoughts which moved the soul of the
In virtue of the order of the Convention, the newly-appointed
General Bonaparte was to go to the army of the republic which was
now stationed in Italy; and he received secret instructions from the
Directory concerning Genoa. Bonaparte left Paris, to gather, as he
hoped, fresh laurels and new victories.
On the 25th day of March, 1794. General Bonaparte entered the
headquarters of the French army in Nice. He was welcomed with joy
and marks of distinction, for the fame of his heroic deeds before
Toulon had preceded him; and on Bonaparte's pale, proud face, with
its dark, brilliant eyes, was written that he was now come into
Italy to add fresh laurels to the victor's crown won before Toulon.
The old commander-in-chief of the French army, General Dumerbion,
confined oftentimes to his bed through sickness, was very willing to
be represented by General Bonaparte, and to place every thing in his
hands; and the two representatives of the people, Ricord and
Robespierre (the younger brother of the all-powerful dictator)--
these two representatives in the army corps of Italy bound
themselves in intimate friendship with the young general, who seemed
to share their glowing enthusiasm for the republic, and their hatred
against the monarchy and the aristocrats. They cherished, moreover,
an unreserved confidence in the military capacities of young
Bonaparte, and always gave to his plans their unconditional assent
and approbation. Upon Napoleon's suggestion batteries were erected
on the coast of Provence for the security of the fleet and of
trading-vessels; and when this had been accomplished, the general
began to carry out the plan which he had laid before the
representatives of the republic, and according to which the
republican army, with its right and left wings advancing
simultaneously on the sea-coast, was to march through the neutral
territory of Genoa into Italy.
This plan of Bonaparte was crowned with the most unexpected success.
Without observing the neutrality of Genoa, Generals Massena and
Arena marched through the territory of the proud Italian republic,
and thus began the bloody war which was to desolate the Italian soil
for so many years.
Ever faithful to Bonaparte's war-schemes, which the general-in-
chief, Dumerbion, and the two representatives of the people, Ricord
and Robespierre, had sanctioned, the French columns moved from the
valleys, within whose depths they had so long and so uselessly shed
their blood, up to the heights and conquered the fortresses which
the King of Sardinia had built on the mountains for the protection
of his frontiers. Thus Fort Mirabocco, on the pass of the Cross,
fell into the hands of General Dumas, who then conquered the
intrenched Mount Cenis; thus the pass of Tenda, with the fortress
Saorgio, was captured by the French; and there, in the general depot
of the Piedmontese army, they found sixty cannon and war materials
of all kinds.
The French had celebrated their first victories in Italy, and both
commanding officers of the fortresses of Mirabocco and Saorgio had
to pay for these triumphs in Turin with the loss of their lives;
whilst General Bonaparte, "as the one to whose well-matured plans
and arrangements these brilliant results were due," received from
the Convention brilliant encomiums.
But suddenly the state of affairs assumed another shape, and at one
blow all the hopes and plans of the young, victorious general were
Maximilian Robespierre had fallen; with him fell the whole party;
then fell his brother, who a short time before had returned to
Paris, and had there endeavored to obtain from Maximilian new and
more ample powers for Bonaparte, and even the appointment to the
chief command of the army--there fell also Ricord, who had given to
General Bonaparte the letter of secret instructions for energetic
negotiations with the government of Genoa, and to carry out which
instructions Bonaparte had at this time gone to that city.
As he was returning to his headquarters in Saona, from Paris had
arrived the new representatives, who came to the army of Italy as
delegates of the Convention, and were armed with full powers.
These representatives were Salicetti, Albitte, and Laporte. The
first of these, a countryman of Bonaparte, had been thus far his
friend and his party associate. He was in Corsica at the same time
as Napoleon, in the year 1793; he had been, like his young friend, a
member of the Jacobin Club of Ajaccio, and Salicetti's speeches had
not been inferior to those of Napoleon, either in wildness or in
But now Salicetti had become the representative of the moderate
party; and it was highly important for him to establish himself
securely in his new position, and to give to the Convention a proof
of the firmness of his sentiments by manifesting the hatred which he
had sworn to the terrorists, and to all those who, under the fallen
regime, had obtained recognition and distinction.
General Bonaparte had been a friend of the young Robespierre; loudly
and openly he had expressed his republican and democratic
sentiments; he had been advanced under the administration of
Robespierre, from simple lieutenant to general; he had been sent to
Genoa, with secret instructions by the representatives of the
Committee of Safety, made up of terrorists--all this was sufficient
to make him appear suspicious to the moderate party, and to furnish
Salicetti an opportunity to show himself a faithful partisan of the
new system of moderation.
General Bonaparte was, by order of the representatives of the
people, Salicetti and Albitte, arrested at his headquarters in
Saona, because, as the warrant for arrest, signed by both
representatives, asserted: "General Bonaparte had completely lost
their confidence through his suspicious demeanor, and especially
through the journey which he had lately made to Genoa." The warrant
of arrest furthermore ordered that General Bonaparte, whose effects
should be sealed and his papers examined, was to be sent to Paris,
under sure escort, and be brought for examination before the
Committee of Safety.
If this order were carried into execution, then Bonaparte was lost;
for, though Robespierre had fallen, yet with his fall the system of
blood and terror had not been overthrown in Paris; it had only
changed its name.
The terrorists, who now called themselves the moderates, exercised
the same system of intimidation as their predecessors; and to be
brought before the Committee of Safety, signified the same thing as
to receive a death-warrant.
Bonaparte was lost, if it truly came to this, that he must be led to
This was what Junot, the present adjutant of Napoleon, and his
faithful friend and companion, feared. It was therefore necessary to
anticipate this order, and to procure freedom to Bonaparte.
A thousand schemes for the rescue of his beloved chief, crossed the
soul of the young man. But how make them known to the general? how
induce him to flee, since all approaches to him were forbidden? His
zeal, his inventive friendship, succeeded at last in finding a
means. One of the soldiers, who was placed as sentry at the door of
the arrested general, was bribed by Junot; through him a letter from
Junot reached Bonaparte's hands, which laid before him a scheme of
flight that the next night could be accomplished with Junot's help.
Not far from Bonaparte's dwelling Junot awaited the answer, and soon
a soldier passed by and brought it to him.
This answer ran thus: "In the propositions you make, I acknowledge
your deep friendship, my dear Junot; you are also conscious of the
friendship I have consecrated to you for a long time, and I trust
you have confidence in it.
"Man may do wrong toward me, my dear Junot; it is enough for me to
be innocent; my conscience is the tribunal which I recognize as sole
judge of my conduct.
"This conscience is quiet when I question it; do, therefore,
nothing, if you do not wish to compromise me. Adieu, dear Junot.
Farewell, and friendship." [Footnote: Abrantes, "Memoires," vol. i.,
Meanwhile, notwithstanding his quiet conscience, Bonaparte was not
willing to meet his fate passively and silently, and, perchance, it
seemed to him that it was "not enough to be innocent," so as to be
saved from the guillotine. He therefore addressed a protest to both
representatives of the people who had ordered his arrest, and this
protest, which he dictated to his friend Junot, who had finally
succeeded in coming to Bonaparte, is so extraordinary and so
peculiar in its terseness of style, in its expressions of political
sentiment; it furnishes so important a testimony of the republican
democratic opinions of the young twenty-six-year-old general, that
we cannot but give here this document.
Bonaparte then dictated to his friend Junot as follows:
"To the representatives Salicetti and Albitte:
"You have deprived me of my functions, you have arrested me and
declared me suspected.
"I am, then, ruined without being condemned; or else, which is much
more correct, I am condemned without being heard.
"In a revolutionary state exist two classes: the suspected and the
"When those of the first class are accused, they are treated as the
common law of safety provides.
"The oppression of those of the second class is the ruin of public
liberty. The judge must condemn only after mature deliberation, and
when a series of unimpeachable facts reaches the guilty.
"To denounce a patriot as guilty is a condemnation which deprives
him of what is most dear--confidence and esteem.
"In which class am I to be ranked?
"Have I not been, since the beginning of the revolution, faithful to
"Have I not always been seen at war with enemies at home, or as a
soldier against the foreign foe?
"I have sacrificed my residence in my country and my property to the
republic; I have lost all for her.
"By serving my country with some distinction at Toulon and in the
Italian army, I have had my share in the laurels which that army has
won at Saorgio, Queille, and Tanaro.
"At the time of the discovery of Robespierre's conspiracy, my
conduct was that of a man who is accustomed to recognize principles
"It is therefore impossible to refuse me the title of patriot.
"Why, then, am I declared suspect without being heard? Why am I
arrested eight days after the news of the death of the tyrant?
"I am declared suspect, and my papers are sealed!
"The reverse ought to have taken place: my papers ought to have been
unsealed; I ought to have been tried; explanations ought to have
been sought for, and then I might have been declared suspect if
there were sufficient motives for it.
"It is decided that I must go to Paris under a warrant of arrest
which declares me suspect. In Paris they will conclude that the
representatives have acted thus only after sufficient examination,
and I shall he condemned with the sympathy which a man of that class
"Innocent, patriotic, slandered, whatever may be the measures which
the committee take, I cannot complain.
"If three men were to declare that I have committed a crime, I could
not complain if the jury should declare me guilty.
"Salicetti, you know me. Have you, during the five years of our
acquaintance, found in my conduct any thing which could be suspected
as against the revolution?
"Albitte, you know me not. No one can have given you convincing
evidence against me. You have not heard me; you know, however, with
what smoothness calumny oftentimes whispers.
"Must I then be taken for an enemy of my country? Must the patriots
ruin, without any regard, a general who has not been entirely
useless to the republic? Must the representatives place the
government under the necessity of acting unjustly and impolitically?
"Mark my words; destroy the oppression which binds me down, and re-
establish me in the esteem of the patriots.
"If, then, at some future hour, the wicked shall still long for my
life, well, then I consider it of so little importance--I have so
often despised it--yes, the mere thought that it can be useful to
the country, enables me to bear its burden with courage." [Footnote:
Bourienne, "Memoires sur Napoleon," etc., vol. i., p. 63.]
Whether these energetic protestations of Bonaparte, or whether some
other motives, conduced to the result, Salicetti thought that with
Napoleon's arrest he had furnished sufficient proof of his patriotic
sentiments; it seemed to him enough to have obscured the growing
fame of the young general, and to have plunged back into obscurity
and forgetfulness him whose first steps in life's career promised
such a radiant and glorious course!
It matters not, however, what circumstances may have wrought out;
the representatives Salicetti and Albitte issued a decree in virtue
of which General Bonaparte was, after mature consideration and
thorough examination of his papers, declared innocent and free from
all suspicion. Consequently, Bonaparte was temporarily set at
liberty; but he was suspended from his command in the Italian army,
and was recalled to Paris, there to be made acquainted with his
This destination was pointed out to him in a commission as
brigadier-general of infantry in the province of Vendee, there to
lead on the fratricidal strife against the fanatical Chouans, the
faithful adherents of the king.
Bonaparte refused this offer--first, because it seemed to him an
insulting request to ask him to fight against his own countrymen;
and secondly, because he did not wish to enter the infantry service,
but to remain in the artillery.
The Committee of Safety responded to this refusal of Bonaparte by
striking his name from the list of generals appointed for promotion,
because he had declined to go to the post assigned him.
This decision fell upon the ambitious, heroic young man like a
thunderbolt. He had dreamed of brilliant war deeds, of laurels, of
fame, of a glorious future, won for him by his own sword; and now,
all at once, he saw himself dragged away from this luminous track of
fame upon which he had so brilliantly entered--he saw himself thrust
back into obscurity, forgetfulness, and inactivity.
A gloomy, misanthropic sentiment took possession of him; and, though
a prophetic voice within said that the future still belonged to him,
with its fame, its laurels, its victories, yet inactivity, care, and
the wants of the present, hung with oppressive weight upon his mind.
He withdrew from all social joys and recreations, he avoided his
acquaintances, and only to a few friends did he open his foreboding
heart; only with these did he associate, and to them alone he made
his complaints of broken hopes, of life's career destroyed.
To these few friends, whom Bonaparte in his misfortune found
faithful and unchanged, belonged the Ferment family, and above all
belonged Junot, who had come to Paris at the same time as Bonaparte,
and who, though the latter was dismissed from the service, continued
to call himself the adjutant of General Bonaparte.
In the Permont family Napoleon was received with the same friendship
and attention as in former days; Madame de Permont retained ever for
the son of the friend of her youth, Letitia, a kindly smile, a
genial sympathy, an intelligent appreciation of his plans and
wishes; her husband manifested toward him all the interest of a
parental regard; her son Albert was full of tenderness and
admiration for him; and her younger daughter Laura jested and
conversed with him as with a beloved brother.
In this house every thing seemed pleasant and friendly to Bonaparte;
thither he came every day, and mixed with the social circles, which
gathered in the evening in the drawing-rooms of the beautiful, witty
Madame de Permont; and where men even of diverging political
sentiments, aristocrats and ci-devants of the first water, were to
be found. But Madame de Permont had forbidden all political
discussion in her saloon; and General Bonaparte, now compelled to
inactivity, dared no more show his anger against the Committee of
Safety, or against the Convention, than the Count de Montmorency or
any of the proud ladies of the former quarter of St. Germain.
Not only the inactivity to which he was condemned, not only the
destruction of all his ambitious hopes, burdened the mind of
Bonaparte, but also the material pressure under which he now and
then found himself, and which seemed to him a shame and a
humiliation. With gloomy grudge he gazed at those young elegants
whom he met on the Boulevards in splendid toilet, on superb horses--
at these incroyables who, in the first rays of the sun of peace,
from the soil of the republic, yet moist with blood, had sprung up
as so many mushrooms of divers colors and varied hues.
"And such men enjoy their happiness!" exclaimed Bonaparte,
contemptuously, as once in the Champs Elysees he sat before a
coffee-house, near one of those incroyables, and with violent
emotion starting up, he pushed his seat back and nearly broke the
feet of his exquisitely dressed neighbor.
To be forgotten, to be set in the background, to be limited in
means, was always to him a source of anger, which manifested itself
now in impassioned vehemence, now in vague, gloomy dreaminess, from
which he would rise up again with some violent sarcasm or some
But whilst he thus suffered, was in want, and had so much to endure,
his mind and heart were always busy. His mind was framing new plans
to bring to an end these days of inactivity, to open a new path of
fame and glory; his heart dreamed of a sweet bliss, of another new
The object of this love was the sister of his brother's wife, the
young Desiree Clary. Joseph Bonaparte, who was now in Marseilles as
war-commissioner, had married there one of the daughters of the rich
merchant Clary; and her younger sister Desiree was the one to whom
Napoleon had devoted his heart. The whole Bonaparte family was now
in Marseilles, and had decided to make their permanent residence in
France, as their return to Corsica was still impossible; for General
Paoli, no longer able to hold the island, had called the English to
his help, and the assembled Consulta, over which Paoli presided, had
invited the King of England to become sovereign of the island. The
French party, at whose head had been the Bonaparte family, was
overcome, and could no longer lift up head or voice.
Bonaparte came often to Marseilles to visit his family, which
consisted of his mother Letitia. her three daughters, her two
younger sons, and her brother, the Abbe Fesch. There, he had seen
every day, in the house of his brother, Desiree Clary, and the
beautiful, charming maid had not failed to leave in the heart of the
young general a deep impression. Desiree seemed to return this
inclination, and a union of the two young lovers might soon have
taken place, if fate, in the shape of accident, had not prevented
Joseph was sent by the Committee of Safety to Genoa, with
instructions; his young wife and her sister Desiree accompanied him.
Perhaps the new, variable impressions of the journey, perhaps her
separation from Bonaparte, and her association with other officers
less gloomy than the saturnine Napoleon, all this seemed to cool the
love of Desiree Clary; she no more answered Napoleon's letters, and,
in writing to his brother Joseph, he made bitter complaints: "It
seems that to reach Genoa the River Lethe must first be crossed, and
therefore Desiree writes no more." [Footnote: See "Memoires du Roi
Joseph," vol. i.]
The only confidant to whom Bonaparte imparted these heart-
complaints, was Junot. He had for him no secrecy of his innermost
and deepest inclinations; to him he complained with grave and
impassioned words of Desiree's changeableness; and Junot, whose
worshipful love for his friend could not understand that any maiden,
were she the most beautiful and glorious on earth, could ever slight
the inclination of General Bonaparte, Junot shared his wrath against
Desiree, who had begun the rupture between them by leaving
unanswered two of Napoleon's letters.
After having been angry and having complained in concert with
Bonaparte, Junot's turn to be confidential had come. Bewildered, and
blushing like a young maid, he avowed to his dear general that he
also loved, and that he could hope for happiness and joy only if
Napoleon's younger sister, the beautiful little Pauline, would be
Bonaparte listened to him with a frowning countenance, and when
Junot ended by asking his mediation with Pauline's mother, Napoleon
asked in a grave tone, "But, what have you to live upon? Can you
support Pauline? Can you, with her, establish a household which will
be safe against want?"
Junot, radiant with joy, told him how, anticipating this question of
Napoleon, he had written to his father, and had asked for
information in regard to his means; and that his father had just now
answered his questions, and had replied that for the present he
could not give him anything, but that after his death the
inheritance of his son would amount to twenty thousand francs.
"I shall be one day rich," exclaimed Junot, gayly, as he handed to
Napoleon the letter of his father, "for with my pay I will have an
income of twelve hundred livres. My general, I beseech you, write to
the Citoyenne Bonaparte; tell her that you have read the letter of
my father, and say a good word in my favor."
Bonaparte did not at once reply. He attentively read the letter of
Junot, senior, then returned it to his friend, and with head sunk
down upon his breast he stared gloomily, with contracted eyebrows.
"You answer not, general," exclaimed Junot, in extreme anguish. "You
do not wish to be my mediator?"
Bonaparte raised his head; his cheeks were paler than before, and a
gloomy expression was in his eyes.
"I cannot write to my mother to make her this proposition," said he,
in a rough, severe tone. "That is impossible, my friend. You say
that one day you will have an income of twelve hundred livres. That
is, indeed, very fair, but you have them not now. Besides, your
father's health is remarkably good, and he will make you wait a long
time. For the present you have nothing; for your lieutenant's
epaulets can be reckoned as nothing. As regards Pauline, she has not
even that much. Let us then sum up: you have nothing; she has
nothing! What is the total amount? Nothing. You cannot, therefore,
be married now: let us wait. We shall, perhaps, friend, outlive
these evil days. Yes, we shall outlive them, even if I have to
become an exile, to seek for them in another portion of the world!
Let us, then, wait!" [Footnote: Bonaparte's words.--See Abrantes,
"Memoires," vol. i., p. 284.]
And a wondrous, mysterious brilliancy and flash filled the eyes of
General Bonaparte, as with a commanding voice he repeated, "Let us
Was this one of those few and pregnant moments in which the mind
with prophetic power gazes into the future? Had a corner of the veil
which hid the future been lifted up before the glowing eagle-eye of
Napoleon, and did he see the splendor and the glory of that future
which were to be his? However great his imagination, however
ambitious his dreams, however wide his hopes, yet they all were to
be one day surpassed by the reality. For would he not have
considered a madman him, who, at this hour, would have told him:
"Smooth the furrows on your brow, Bonaparte; be not downcast about
the present. You are now in want, you are thrust aside;
forgetfulness and obscurity are now your lot; but be of good cheer,
you will be emperor, and all Europe will lie trembling at your feet.
You love the young Desiree Clary, and her indifference troubles you;
but be of good cheer, you will one day marry the daughter of a
Caesar, and the little Desiree, the daughter of a merchant from
Marseilles, will one day be Sweden's queen! You refuse to Junot,
your friend, the gratification of his wishes, because he possesses
nothing but his officer's epaulets: but be of good cheer, for you
will one day convert the little Lieutenant Junot into a duke, and
give him a kingdom for a dowry! You feel downhearted and ashamed,
because your sister Pauline is not rich, because she possesses
nothing but her beauty and her name: but be of good cheer, she will
one day be the wife of the wealthiest prince of Italy; all the
treasures of art will be gathered in her palace, and yet she will be
the most precious ornament of that palace!"
Surely the General Bonaparte would have laughed at the madman, who,
in the year 1795, should have thus spoken to him--and yet a mere
decade of years was to suffice for the realization of all these
prophecies, and to turn the incredible into a reality.
THE THIRTEENTH VENDEMIAIRE.
The days of terror, and of blood, under which France has sighed so
long, were not to end with the fall of Robespierre. Another enemy of
the rest and peace of France had now made its entrance into Paris--
hunger began to exercise its dreary rale of horror, and to fill the
hearts of men with rage and despair.
Everywhere throughout France the crops had failed, and the republic
had too much to do with the guillotine, with the political struggles
in the interior, with the enemies on the frontier, she had been so
busy with the heads of her children, that she could have no care for
the welfare of their stomachs.
The corn-magazines were empty, and in the treasury of the republican
government there was no money to buy grain in foreign markets. Very
soon the want of bread, the cry for food, made itself felt
everywhere; soon hunger goaded into new struggles of despair the
poor Parisian people, already so weary with political storms,
longing for rest, and exhausted by conflicts. Hunger drove them
again into politics, hunger converted the women into demons, and
their husbands into fanatical Jacobins. Every day, tumults and
seditious gatherings took place in Paris; the murmuring and howling
crowd threatened to rise up. Every day appeared at the bar of the
Convention the sections of Paris, entreating with wild cries for a
remedy for their distress. At every step in the streets one was met
by intoxicated women, who tried to find oblivion of their hunger in
wine, and to whom, notwithstanding their drunkenness, the
consciousness of their calamity remained. These drunken women, with
the gestures of madness, shouted: "Bread! give us bread! We had
bread at least in the year '93! Bread! Down with the republic! Down
with the Convention, which leaves us to starve!"
To these shouts responded other masses of the people: "Down with the
constitutionalists! Long live the Mountain! Long live the
Civil war, which in its exhaustion had remained subdued for a
moment, threatened to break out with renewed rage, for the parties
stood face to face in determined hostility, and "Down with the
constitutionalists!--down with the republicans!" was the watchword
of these parties.
For a moment it seemed as if the Mountain, as if the revolution,
would regain the ascendency, as if the terrorists would once more
seize the rudder which had slipped from their blood-stained hands.
But the Convention, which for a time had remained undecided,
trembling and vacillating, rose at length from its lethargy to firm,
energetic measures, and came to the determination to restore peace
at any price.
The people, stirred up by the terrorists, the furious men of the
Mountain, had to be reduced to silence, and the cry, "Long live the
constitution of '93!--down with the Convention!"--this cry, which
every day rolled on through the streets of Paris like the vague
thunderings of the war-drum,--had to be put down by armed force.
Barrere, Collot d'Herbois, Billaud Varennes, the remnant of the
sanguinary administration of Robespierre, the terrorists who excited
the people against the Convention, who pressed on the Thermidorists,
and wanted to occupy their place, these were the ones who with their
adherents and friends threatened the Convention and imperilled its
existence. The Convention rose up in its might and punished these
leaders of sedition, so as through fear and horror to disperse the
masses of the people.
Barrere, Collot d'Herbois, and Billaud Varennes, were arrested and
sent to Cayenne; six of their friends, six republicans and
terrorists, were also seized, and as they were convicted of forging
plots against the Convention and the actual administration, they
were sentenced to death. A seventh had also been at the head of this
conspiracy; and this seventh one, who with the others had been
sentenced to death, and whom the Committee of Safety had watched for
everywhere, to bring down upon him the chastisement due, this
seventh one was Salicetti--the same Salicetti who after the fall of
Robespierre had arrested General Bonaparte as suspect. Bonaparte had
never forgiven him, and though he often met him in the house of
Madame de Permont, and appeared to be reconciled with him, yet he
could not forget that he was the one who had stopped him in the
midst of his course of fame, that it was he who had debarred him
from his whole career.
"Salicetti has done me much harm," said Bonaparte to Madame de
Permont, and a strange look from his eyes met her face--"Salicetti
has destroyed my future in its dawn. He has blighted my plans of
fame in their bud. I repeat, he has done me much harm. He has been
my evil spirit. I can never forget it," but added he, thoughtfully,
"I will now try to forgive." [Footnote: Abrantes, vol. i, p. 300.]
And again a peculiar, searching look of his eyes met the face of
Madame de Permont.
She, however, turned aside, she avoided his look, for she dared not
tell him that Salicetti, for whom the Convention searched throughout
Paris so as to bring upon him the execution of his death-warrant--
that Salicetti, whom Bonaparte so fiercely hated, was hid a few
steps from him in the little cabinet near the drawing-room.
Like Bonaparte, Salicetti was the countryman of Madame de Permont;
in the days of his power, he had saved the husband and the son of
Panonia from the persecution of the terrorists, and lie had now come
to ask safety from those whom he had once saved.
Madame de Permont had not had the courage to refuse an asylum to
Salicetti; she kept him secreted in her house for weeks; and during
all these weeks, Bonaparte came daily to visit Madame de Permont and
her children, and every day he turned the conversation upon
Salicetti, and asked if they knew not yet where he was secreted. And
every time, when Madame de Permont answered him in the negative, he
gazed at her with a piercing look, and with his light, sarcastic
Meanwhile Salicetti's danger for himself, and those who secreted
him, increased every day, and Madame de Permont resolved to quit
Paris. The sickness of her husband, who was in Toulon, furnished her
with the welcomed opportunity of a journey. She made known to the
friends and acquaintances who visited her house, and especially to
Bonaparte, that she had received a letter from the physician in
Toulon, requesting her presence at her husband's bed of sickness.
Bonaparte read the letter, and again the same strange look met the
face of Madame de Permont.
"It is, indeed, important," said he, "that you should travel, and I
advise you to do so as soon as possible. Fatal consequences might
ensue to M. de Permont, were you to delay any longer in going to
Madame de Permont made, therefore, all her arrangements for this
journey. Salicetti, disguised as a servant, was to accompany her.
Bonaparte still came as usual every day, and took great interest in
the preparations for her journey, and conversed with her in the most
friendly and pleasant manner. On the day of departure, he saluted
her most cordially, assured her of his true, unswerving attachment,
and, with a final, significant look, expressed a wish that her
journey might be accomplished without danger.
When Madame de Permont had overcome all difficulties, and she and
her daughter had left Paris and passed the barriere, as the carriage
rolled on without interruption (Salicetti, disguised as a servant,
sitting near the postilion on the driver's seat), the housemaid
handed to her a letter which General Bonaparte had given her, with
positive orders to hand it to her mistress only when they should be
beyond the outer gates of Paris.
The letter ran thus: "I have never been deceived: I would seem to be
in your estimation, if I did not tell you that, for the last twenty
days, I knew that Salicetti was secreted in your house. Remember
what I told you on the first day, Prairial, Madame de Permont--I had
then the mental conviction of this secrecy. Now it is a matter of
fact.--Salicetti, you see I could have returned to you the wrong
which you perpetrated against me, and by so doing I should have
revenged myself, whilst you wronged me without any offence on my
part. Who plays at this moment the nobler part, you or I? Yes, I
could have revenged myself, and I have not done it. You will,
perhaps, say that your benefactress acted as a protecting shield.
That is true, and it also is taken into consideration. Yet, even
without this consideration, such as you were--alone, disarmed,
sentenced--your head would even then have been sacred to me. Go,
seek in peace a refuge where you can rise to nobler sentiments for
your country. My mouth remains closed in reference to your name, and
will no more utter it. Repent, and, above all things, do justice to
my intentions. I deserve it, for they are noble and generous.
"Madame de Permont, my best wishes accompany you and your daughter.
You are two frail beings, without protection. Providence and prayers
will accompany you. Be prudent, and during your journey never stop
in large towns. Farewell, and receive the assurance of my
friendship." [Footnote: Abrantes, "Memoires," vol. i., p. 351.]
The nobility of mind which Bonaparte displayed toward his enemy was
soon to receive its reward; for, whilst Salicetti, a fugitive, sick,
and sentenced to death, was compelled to remain hidden, Bonaparte
was emerging from the oblivion to which the ambitious zeal of
Salicetti would have consigned him.
When Napoleon, dismissed from his position, arrived in Paris, and
appealed to Aubry, the chief of the war department, to be re-
established in his command, he was told: "Bonaparte is too young to
command an army as general-in-chief;" and Bonaparte answered: "One
soon becomes old on the battle-field, and I come from it."
[Footnote: Norvins, "Histoire de Napoleon," vol. i., p. 60.]
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