In the month of May, 1801, there came to Paris, on his way to take possession of his new kingdom, the Prince of Tuscany, Don Louis the First, whom the First Consul had just made King of Etruria. He traveled under the name of the Count of Leghorn, with his wife, who was the infanta of Spain, Maria Louisa, third daughter of Charles the Fourth; but in spite of the incognito, which, from the modest title he had assumed, he seemed really anxious to preserve, especially, perhaps, on account of the poor appearance of his small court, he was, notwithstanding, received and treated at the Tuileries as a king. This prince was in feeble health, and it was said had epilepsy. They were lodged at the residence of the Spanish Embassy, formerly the Hotel Montessori; and he requested Madame de Montessori, who lived in the next house, to reopen a private communication between the houses which had long been closed. He, as well as the Queen of Etruria, greatly enjoyed the society of this lady, who was the widow of the Duke of Orleans, and spent many hours every day in her house. A Bourbon himself, he doubtless loved to hear every particular relating to the Bourbons of France, which could so well be given by one who had lived at their court, and on intimate terms with the royal family, with which she was connected by ties which, though not official, were none the less well known and recognized.
Madame de Montesson received at her house all who were most distinguished in Parisian society. She had reunited the remnants of the most select society of former times, which the Revolution had dispersed. A friend of Madame Bonaparte, she was also loved and respected by the First Consul, who was desirous that they should speak and think well of him in the most noble and elegant saloon of the capital. Besides, he relied upon the experience and exquisite refinement of this lady, to establish in the palace and its society, out of which he already dreamed of making a court, the usages and etiquette customary with sovereigns.
The King of Etruria was not fond of work, and in this respect did not please the First Consul, who could not endure idleness. I heard him one day, in conversation with his colleague, Cambaceres, score severely his royal protege (in his absence, of course). "Here is a prince," said he, "who does not concern himself much with his very dear and well-beloved subjects, but passes his time cackling with old women, to whom he dilates in a loud tone on my good qualities, while he complains in a whisper of owing his elevation to the chief of this cursed French Republic. His only business is walking, hunting, balls, and theaters."—"It is asserted," remarked Cambaceres, "that you wished to disgust the French people with kings, by showing them such a specimen, as the Spartans disgusted their children with drunkenness by exhibiting to them a drunken slave."
"Not so, not so, my dear sir," replied the First Consul. "I have no desire to disgust them with royalty; but the sojourn of the King of Etruria will annoy a number of good people who are working incessantly to create a feeling favorable to the Bourbons." Don Louis, perhaps, did not merit such severity, although he was, it must be admitted, endowed with little mind, and few agreeable traits of character. When he dined at the Tuileries, he was much embarrassed in replying to the simplest questions the First Consul addressed him. Beyond the rain and the weather, horses, dogs, and other like subjects of conversation, he could not give an intelligent reply on any subject. The Queen, his wife, often made signs to put him on right road, and even whispered to him, what he should say or do; but this rendered only the more conspicuous his absolute want of presence of mind. People made themselves merry at his expense; but they took good care, however, not to do this in the presence of the First Consul, who would not have suffered any want of respect to a guest to whom he had shown so much. What gave rise to the greatest number of pleasantries, in regard to the prince, was his excessive economy, which reached a point truly incredible. Innumerable instances were quoted, which this is perhaps the most striking. The First Consul sent him frequently during his stay, magnificent presents, such as Savonnerie carpets, Lyons cloths, and Sevres porcelain; and on such occasions his Majesty would give some small gratuity to the bearers of these precious articles. One day a vase of very great value (it cost, I believe, a hundred thousand crowns) was brought him which it required a dozen workmen to place in the apartments of the king. Their work being finished, the workmen waited until his Majesty should give them some token of his satisfaction, and flattered themselves he would display a truly royal liberality. As, notwithstanding, time passed, and the expected gratuity did not arrive, they finally applied to one of his chamberlains, and asked him to lay their petition at the feet of the King of Etruria. His Majesty, who was still in ecstasy over the beauty of the present, and the munificence of the First Consul, was astounded at such a request. "It was a present," said he; "and hence it was for him to receive, not to give;" and it was only after much persistence that the chamberlain obtained six francs for each of these workmen, which were refused by these good people. The persons of the prince's suite asserted that to this extreme aversion to expense he added an excessive severity towards themselves; however, the first of these traits probably disposed the servants of the King of Etruria to exaggerate the second.
Masters who are too economical never fail to be deemed severe themselves, and at the same time are severely criticised by their servants. For this reason, perhaps (I would say in passing), there is current among some people a calumny which represents the Emperor as often taking a fancy to beat his servants. The economy of the Emperor Napoleon was only a desire for the most perfect order in the expenses of his household. One thing I can positively assert in regard to his Majesty, the King of Etruria, is that he did not sincerely feel either all the enthusiasm or all the gratitude which he expressed towards the First Consul, and the latter had more than one proof of this insincerity. As to the king's talent for governing and reigning, the First Consul said to Cambaceres at his levee, in the same conversation from which I have already quoted, that the Spanish Ambassador had complained of the haughtiness of this prince towards him, of his extreme ignorance, and of the disgust with which all kind of business inspired him. Such was the king who went to govern part of Italy, and was installed in his kingdom by General Murat, who apparently had little idea that a throne was in store for himself a few leagues distant from that on which he seated Don Luis.
The Queen of Etruria was, in the opinion of the First Consul, more sagacious and prudent than her august husband. This princess was remarkable neither for grace nor elegance; she dressed herself in the morning for the whole day, and walked in the garden, her head adorned with flowers or a diadem, and wearing a dress, the train of which swept up the sand of the walks; often, also, carrying in her arms one of her children, still in long dresses, from which it can be readily understood that by night the toilet of her Majesty was somewhat disarranged. She was far from pretty, and her manners were not suited to her rank. But, which fully atoned for all this, she was good-tempered, much beloved by those in her service, and fulfilled scrupulously all the duties of wife and mother; and in consequence the First Consul, who made a great point of domestic virtues, professed for her the highest and most sincere esteem.
During the entire month which their Majesties spent in Paris, there was a succession of fetes, one of which Talleyrand gave in their honor at Neuilly, of great magnificence and splendor, and to which I, being on duty, accompanied the First Consul. The chateau and park were illuminated with a brilliant profusion of colored lights. First there was a concert, at the close of which the end of the hall was moved aside, like the curtain of a theater, and we beheld the principal square in Florence, the ducal palace, a fountain playing, and the Tuscans giving themselves up to the games and dances of their country, and singing couplets in honor of their sovereigns. Talleyrand came forward, and requested their Majesties to mingle with their subjects; and hardly had they set foot in the garden than they found themselves in fairyland, where fireworks, rockets, and Bengal fires burst out in every direction and in every form, colonnades, arches of triumph, and palaces of fire arose, disappeared, and succeeded each other incessantly. Numerous tables were arranged in the apartments and in the garden, at which all the spectators were in turn seated, and last of all a magnificent ball closed this evening of enchantments. It was opened by the King of Etruria and Madame Le Clerc (Pauline Borghese).
Madame de Montesson also gave to their Majesties a ball, at which the whole family of the First Consul was present. But of all these entertainments, I retain the most vivid recollection of that given by Chaptal, Minister of the Interior, the day which he chose being the fourteenth of June, the anniversary of the battle of Marengo. After the concert, the theater, the ball, and another representation of the city and inhabitants of Florence, a splendid supper was served in the garden, under military tents, draped with flags, and ornamented with groupings of arms and trophies, each lady being accompanied and served at table by an officer in uniform. When the King and Queen of Etruria came out of their tent, a balloon was released which carried into the heavens the name of Marengo in letters of fire.
Their Majesties wished to visit, before their departure, the chief public institutions, so they were taken to the Conservatory of Music, to a sitting of the Institute, of which they did not appear to comprehend much, and to the Mint, where a medal was struck in their honor. Chaptall received the thanks of the queen for the manner in which he had entertained and treated his royal guests, both as a member of the Institute, as minister at his hotel, and in the visits which they had made to the different institutions of the capital. On the eve of his departure the king had a long private interview with the First Consul; and though I do not know what passed, I observed that on coming out neither appeared to be satisfied with the other. However, their Majesties, on the whole, should have carried away a most favorable impression of the manner in which they had been received.
In all the fetes given by the First Consul in honor of their Majesties, the King and Queen of Etruria, Mademoiselle Hortense shone with that brilliancy and grace which made her the pride of her mother, and the most beautiful ornament of the growing court of the First Consul.
About this time she inspired a most violent passion in a gentleman of a very good family, who was, I think, a little deranged before this mad love affected his brain. This poor unfortunate roamed incessantly around Malmaison; and as soon as Mademoiselle Hortense left the house, ran by the side of her carriage with the liveliest demonstrations of tenderness, and threw through the window flowers, locks of his hair, and verses of his own composition. When he met Mademoiselle Hortense on foot, he threw himself on his knees before her with a thousand passionate gestures, addressing her in most endearing terms, and followed her, in spite of all opposition, even into the courtyard of the chateau, and abandoned himself to all kinds of folly. At first Mademoiselle Hortense, who was young and gay, was amused by the antics of her admirer, read the verses which he addressed to her, and showed them to the ladies who accompanied her. One such poetical effusion was enough to provoke laughter (and can you blame her?); but after the first burst of laughter, Mademoiselle Hortense, good and charming as her mother, never failed to say, with a sympathetic expression and tone, "The poor man, he is much to be pitied!" At last, however, the importunities of the poor madman increased to such an extent that they became insupportable. He placed himself at the door of the theaters in Paris at which Mademoiselle Hortense was expected, and threw himself at her feet, supplicating, weeping, laughing, and gesticulating all at once. This spectacle amused the crowd too much to long amuse Mademoiselle de Beauharnais; and Carrat was ordered to remove the poor fellow, who was placed, I think, in a private asylum for the insane.
Mademoiselle Hortense would have been too happy if she could have known love only from the absurd effects which it produced on this diseased brain, as she thus saw it only in its pleasant and comic aspect. But the time came when she was forced to feel all that is painful and bitter in the experience of that passion. In January, 1802, she was married to Louis Bonaparte, brother of the First Consul, which was a most suitable alliance as regards age, Louis being twenty-four years old, and Mademoiselle de Beauharnais not more than eighteen; and nevertheless it was to both parties the beginning of long and interminable sorrows.
Louis, however, was kind and sensible, full of good feeling and intelligence, studious and fond of letters, like all his brothers (except one alone); but he was in feeble health, suffered almost incessantly, and was of a melancholy disposition. All the brothers of the First Consul resembled him more or less in their personal appearance, and Louis still more than the others, especially at the time of the Consulate, and before the Emperor Napoleon had become so stout. But none of the brothers of the Emperor possessed that imposing and majestic air and that rapid and imperious manner which came to him at first by instinct, and afterwards from the habit of command. Louis had peaceful and modest tastes. It has been asserted that at the time of his marriage he was deeply attached to a person whose name could not be ascertained, and who, I think, is still a mystery.
Mademoiselle Hortense was extremely pretty, with an expressive and mobile countenance, and in addition to this was graceful, talented, and affable. Kindhearted and amiable like her mother, she had not that excessive desire to oblige which sometimes detracted from Madame Bonaparte's character. This is, nevertheless, the woman whom evil reports, disseminated by miserable scandal-mongers, have so outrageously slandered! My heart is stirred with disgust and indignation when I hear such revolting absurdities repeated and scattered broadcast. According to these honest fabricators, the First Consul must have seduced his wife's daughter, before giving her in marriage to his own brother. Simply to announce such a charge is to comprehend all the falsity of it. I knew better than any one the amours of the Emperor. In these clandestine liaisons he feared scandal, hated the ostentations of vice, and I can affirm on honor that the infamous desires attributed to him never entered his mind. Like every one else, who was near Mademoiselle de Beauharnais, and because he knew his step-daughter even more intimately, he felt for her the tenderest affection; but this sentiment was entirely paternal, and Mademoiselle Hortense reciprocated it by that reverence which a wellborn young girl feels towards her father. She could have obtained from her step-father anything that she wished, if her extreme timidity had not prevented her asking; but, instead of addressing herself directly to him, she first had recourse to the intercession of the secretary, and of those around the Emperor. Is it thus she would have acted if the evil reports spread by her enemies, and those of the Emperor, had had the least foundation?
Before her marriage Hortense had an attachment for General Duroc, who was hardly thirty years of age, had a fine figure, and was a favorite with the chief of state, who, knowing him to be prudent and discreet, confided to him important diplomatic missions. As aide-de-camp of the First Consul, general of division, and governor of the Tuileries, he lived long in familiar intimacy at Malmaison, and in the home life of the Emperor, and during necessary absences on duty, corresponded with Mademoiselle Hortense; and yet the indifference with which he allowed the marriage of the latter with Louis to proceed, proves that he reciprocated but feebly the affection which he had inspired. It is certain that he could have had. Mademoiselle de Beauharnais for his wife, if he had been willing to accept the conditions on which the First Consul offered the hand of his step-daughter; but he was expecting something better, and his ordinary prudence failed him at the time when it should have shown him a future which was easy to foresee, and calculated to satisfy the promptings of an ambition even more exalted than his. He therefore refused positively; and the entreaties of Madame Bonaparte, which had already influenced her husband, succeeded.
Madame Bonaparte, who saw herself treated with so little friendship by the brothers of the First Consul, tried to make his family a defense for herself against the plots which were gathering incessantly around her to drive her away from the heart of her husband. It was with this design she worked with all her might to bring about the marriage of her daughter with one of her brothers-in-law.
General Duroc doubtless repented immediately of his precipitate refusal when crowns began to rain in the august family to which he had had it in his power to ally himself; when he saw Naples, Spain, Westphalia, Upper Italy, the duchies of Parma, Lucca, etc., become the appendages of the new imperial dynasty; when the beautiful and graceful Hortense herself, who had loved him so devotedly, mounted in her turn a throne that she would have been only too happy to have shared with the object of her young affections. As for him, he married Mademoiselle Hervas d'Almenara, daughter of the banker of the court of Spain. She was a little woman with a very dark complexion, very thin, and without grace; but, on the other hand, of a most peevish, haughty, exacting, and capricious temper. As she was to have on her marriage an enormous dowry, the First Consul had demanded her hand in marriage for his senior aide-de-camp. Madame Duroc forgot herself, I have heard, so far as to beat her servants, and to bear herself in a most singular manner toward people who were in no wise her dependants. When M. Dubois came to tune her piano, unfortunately she was at home, and finding the noise required by this operation unendurable, drove the tuner off with the greatest violence. In one of these singular attacks she one day broke all the keys of his instrument. Another time Mugnier, clockmaker of the Emperor, and the head of his profession in Paris, with Breguet, having brought her a watch of very great value that madame, the Duchess of Friuli had herself ordered, but which did not please her, she became so enraged, that, in the presence of Mugnier, she dashed the watch on the floor, danced on it, and reduced it to atoms. She utterly refused to pay for it, and the marshal was compelled to do this himself. Thus Duroc's want of foresight in refusing the hand of Hortense, together with the interested calculations of Madame Bonaparte, caused the misery of two households.
The portrait I have sketched, and I believe faithfully, although not a flattering picture, is merely that of a young woman with all the impulsiveness of the Spanish character, spoiled as an only daughter, who had been reared in indulgence, and with the entire neglect which hinders the education of all the young ladies of her country. Time has calmed the vivacity of her youth; and madame, the Duchess of Friuli, has since given an example of most faithful devotion to duty, and great strength of mind in the severe trials that she has endured. In the loss of her husband, however grievous it might be, glory had at least some consolation to offer to the widow of the grand marshal. But when her young daughter, sole heiress of a great name and an illustrious title, was suddenly taken away by death from all the expectations and the devotion of her mother, who could dare to offer her consolation? If there could be any (which I do not believe), it would be found in the remembrance of the cares and tenderness lavished on her to the last by maternal love. Such recollections, in which bitterness is mingled with sweetness, were not wanting to the duchess.
The religious ceremony of marriage between Louis and Hortense took place Jan. 7, in a house in the Rue de la Victoire; and the marriage of General Murat with Caroline Bonaparte, which had been acknowledged only before the civil authorities, was consecrated on the same day. Both Louis and his bride were very sad. She wept bitterly during the whole ceremony, and her tears were not soon dried. She made no attempt to win the affection of her husband; while he, on his side, was too proud and too deeply wounded to pursue her with his wooing. The good Josephine did all she could to reconcile them; for she must have felt that this union, which had begun so badly, was her work, in which she had tried to combine her own interest, or at least that which she considered such, and the happiness of her daughter. But her efforts, as well as her advice and her prayers, availed nothing; and I have many a time seen Hortense seek the solitude of her own room, and the heart of a friend, there to pour out her tears. Tears fell from her eyes sometimes even in the midst of one of the First Consul's receptions, where we saw with sorrow this young woman, brilliant and gay, who had so often gracefully done the honors on such occasions and attended to all the details of its etiquette, retire into a corner, or into the embrasure of a window, with one of her most intimate friends, there to sadly make her the a confidante of her trials. During this conversation, from which she rose with red and swollen eyes, her husband remained thoughtful and taciturn at the opposite end of the room. Her Majesty, the Queen of Holland, has been accused of many sins; but everything said or written against this princess is marked by shameful exaggeration. So high a fortune drew all eyes to her, and excited bitter jealousy; and yet those who envied her would not have failed to bemoan themselves, if they had been put in tier place, on condition that they were to bear her griefs. The misfortunes of Queen Hortense began with life itself. Her father having been executed on a revolutionary scaffold, and her mother thrown into prison, she found herself, while still a child, alone, and with no other reliance than the faithfulness of the old servants of the family. Her brother, the noble and worthy Prince Eugene, had been compelled, it is said, to serve as an apprentice. She had a few years of happiness, or at least of repose, during the time she was under the care of Madame Campan, and just after she left boarding-school. But her evil destiny was far from quitting her; and her wishes being thwarted, an unhappy marriage opened for her a new succession of troubles. The death of her first son, whom the Emperor wished to adopt, and whom he had intended to be his successor in the Empire, the divorce of her mother, the tragic death of her best-loved friend, Madame de Brocq, who, before her eyes, slipped over a precipice; the overturning of the imperial throne, which caused her the loss of her title and rank as queen, a loss which she, however, felt less than the misfortunes of him whom she regarded as her father; and finally, the continual annoyance of domestic dissensions, of vexatious lawsuits, and the agony she suffered in beholding her oldest surviving son removed from her by order of her husband,—such were the principal catastrophes in a life which might have been thought destined for so much happiness.
The day after the marriage of Mademoiselle Hortense, the First Consul set out for Lyons, where there awaited him the deputies of the Cisalpine Republic, assembled for the election of a president. Everywhere on his route he was welcomed with fetes and congratulations, with which all were eager to overwhelm him on account of the miraculous manner in which he had escaped the plots of his enemies. This journey differed in no wise from the tours which he afterwards made as Emperor. On his arrival at Lyons, he received the visit of all the authorities, the constituent bodies, the deputations from the neighboring departments, and the members of the Italian councils. Madame Bonaparte, who accompanied him on this journey, attended with him these public displays, and shared with him the magnificent fete given to him by the city of Lyons. The day on which the council elected and proclaimed the First Consul president of the Italian Republic he reviewed, on the Place des Brotteaux, the troops of the garrison, and recognized in the ranks many soldiers of the army of Egypt, with whom he conversed for some time. On all these occasions the First Consul wore the same costume that he had worn at Malmaison, and which I have described elsewhere. He rose early, mounted his horse, and visited the public works, among others those of the Place Belcour, of which he had laid the corner-stone on his return from Italy, passed through the Place des Brotteaux, inspected, examined everything, and, always indefatigable, worked on his return as if he had been at the Tuileries. He rarely changed his dress, except when he received at his table the authorities or the principal inhabitants of the city. He received all petitions most graciously, and before leaving presented to the mayor of the city a scarf of honor, and to the legate of the Pope a handsome snuff-box ornamented with his likeness.
The deputies of the council received presents, and were most generous in making them, presenting Madame Bonaparte with magnificent ornaments of diamonds and precious stones, and other most valuable jewelry.
The First Consul, on arriving at Lyons, had been deeply grieved at the sudden death of a worthy prelate whom he had known in his first campaign in Italy.
The Archbishop of Milan had come to Lyons, notwithstanding his great age, in order to see the First Consul, whom he loved with such tenderness that in conversation the venerable old man continually addressed the young general as "my son." The peasants of Pavia, having revolted because their fanaticism had been excited by false assertions that the French wished to destroy their religion, the Archbishop of Milan, in order to prove that their fears were groundless, often showed himself in a carriage with General Bonaparte.
This prelate had stood the journey well, and appeared in good health and fine spirits. Talleyrand, who had arrived at Lyons a few days before the First Consul, gave a dinner to the Cisalpine deputies and the principal notables of the city, at which the Archbishop of Milan sat on his right. He had scarcely taken his seat, and was in the act of leaning forward to speak to M. de Talleyrand, when he fell dead in his armchair.
On the 12th of January the town of Lyons gave, in honor of the First Consul and Madame Bonaparte, a magnificent fete, consisting of a concert, followed by a ball. At eight o'clock in the evening, the three mayors, accompanied by the superintendents of the fete, called upon their illustrious guests in the government palace. I can imagine that I see again spread out before me that immense amphitheater, handsomely decorated, and illuminated by innumerable lusters and candles, the seats draped with the richest cloths manufactured in the city, and filled with thousands of women, some brilliant in youth and beauty, and all magnificently attired. The theater had been chosen as the place of the fete; and on the entrance of the First Consul and Madame Bonaparte, who advanced leaning on the arm of one of the mayors, there arose a thunder of applause and acclamations. Suddenly the decorations of the theater faded from sight, and the Place Bonaparte (the former Place Belcour) appeared, as it had been restored by order of the First Consul. In the midst rose a pyramid, surmounted by the statue of the First Consul, who was represented as resting upon a lion. Trophies of arms and bas-reliefs represented on one side, the other that of Marengo.
When the first, transports excited by this spectacle, which recalled at once the benefits and the victories of the hero of the fete, had subsided, there succeeded a deep silence, and delightful music was heard, mingled with songs, dedicated to the glory of the First Consul, to his wife, the warriors who surrounded him, and the representatives of the Italian republics. The singers and the musicians were amateurs of Lyons. Mademoiselle Longue, Gerbet, the postmaster, and Theodore, the merchant, who had each performed their parts in a charming manner, received the congratulations of the First Consul, and the most gracious thanks of Madame Bonaparte.
What struck me most forcibly in the couplets which were sung on that occasion, and which much resembled all verses written for such occasions, was that incense was offered to the First Consul in the very terms which all the poets of the Empire have since used in their turn. All the exaggerations of flattery were exhausted during the consulate; and in the years which followed, it was necessary for poets often to repeat themselves. Thus, in the couplets of Lyons, the First Consul was the God of victory, the conqueror of the Nile and of Neptune, the savior of his country, the peacemaker of the world, the arbiter of Europe. The French soldiers were transformed into friends and companions of Alcides, etc., all of which was cutting the ground from under the feet of the singers of the future.
The fete of Lyons ended in a ball which lasted until daylight, at which the First Consul remained two hours, which he spent in conversation with the magistrates of the city. While the better class of the inhabitants gave these grand entertainments to their guests, the people, notwithstanding the cold, abandoned themselves on the public squares to pleasure and dancing, and towards midnight there was a fine display of fireworks on the Place Bonaparte.
After fifteen or eighteen days passed at Lyons, we returned to Paris, the First Consul and his wife continuing to reside by preference at Malmaison. It was, I think, a short time after the return of the First Consul that a poorly dressed man begged an audience; an order was given to admit him to the cabinet, and the First Consul inquired his name. "General," replied the petitioner, frightened by his presence, "it is I who had the honor of giving you writing lessons in the school of Brienne."—"Fine scholar you have made!" interrupted vehemently the First Consul; "I compliment you on it!" Then he began to laugh at his own vehemence, and addressed a few kind words to this good man, whose timidity such a compliment had not reassured. A few days after the master received, from the least promising, doubtless, of all his pupils at Brienne (you know how the Emperor wrote), a pension amply sufficient for his needs.
Another of the old teachers of the First Consul, the Abbe Dupuis, was appointed by him to the post of private librarian at Malmaison, and lived and died there. He was a modest man, and had the reputation of being well-educated. The First Consul visited him often in his room, and paid him every imaginable attention and respect.
The day on which the First Consul promulgated the law of public worship, he rose early, and entered the dressing-room to make his toilet. While he was dressing I saw Joseph Bonaparte enter his room with Cambaceres.
"Well," said the First Consul to the latter, "we are going to mass. What do they think of that in Paris?"—"Many persons," replied M. Cambaceres, "will go to the representation with the intention of hissing the piece, if they do not find it amusing."
"If any one thinks of hissing, I will have him put out-of-doors by the grenadiers of the Consular Guard."
"But if the grenadiers begin to hiss like the others?"
"I have no fear of that. My old soldiers will go to Notre Dame exactly as they went to the mosque at Cairo. They will watch me; and seeing their general remain quiet and reverent, they will do as he does, saying to themselves, "That is the countersign!"
"I am afraid," said Joseph Bonaparte, "that the general officers will not be so accommodating. I have just left Augereau, who was vomiting fire and fury against what he calls your capricious proclamations. He, and. a few others, will not be easy to bring back into the pale of our holy mother, the church."
"Bah! that is like Augereau. He is a bawler, who makes a great noise; and yet if he has a little imbecile cousin, he puts him in the priests college for me to make a chaplain of him.
"That reminds me," continued the First Consul, addressing his colleague, "when is your brother going to take possession of his see of Rouen? Do you know it has the finest archiepiscopal palace in France? He will be cardinal before a year has passed; that matter is already arranged."
The second consul bowed. From that moment his manner towards the First
Consul was rather that of a courtier than an equal.
The plenipotentiaries who had been appointed to examine and sign the Concordat were Joseph Bonaparte, Cruet, and the Abbe Bernier. This latter, whom I saw sometimes at the Tuileries, had been a chief of the Chouans, [The Chouans were Royalists in insurrection in Brittany.] and took a prominent part in all that occurred. The First Consul, in this same conversation, the opening of which I have just related, discussed with his two companions the subject of the conferences on the Concordat. "The Abby Bernier," said the First Consul, "inspired fear in the Italian prelates by the vehemence of his logic. It might have been said that he imagined himself living over again the days in which he led the Vendeens to the charge against the blues. Nothing could be more striking than the contrast of his rude and quarrelsome manner with the polished bearing and honeyed tones of the prelates. Cardinal Caprara came to me two days ago, with a shocked air, to ask if it is true that, during the war of the Vendee, the Abbe Bernier made an altar on which to celebrate mass out of the corpses of the Republicans. I replied that I knew nothing of it, but that it was possible. 'General, First Consul,' cried the frightened cardinal, 'it is not a red hat, but a red cap, which that man should have?'
"I am much afraid," continued the First Consul, "that that kind of cap would prevent the Abbe Bernier from getting the red hat."
These gentlemen left the First Consul when his toilet was finished, and went to make their own. The First Consul wore on that day the costume of the consuls, which consisted of a scarlet coat without facings, and with a broad embroidery of palms, in gold, on all the seams. His sword, which he had worn in Egypt, hung at his side from a belt, which, though not very wide, was of beautiful workmanship, and richly embroidered. He wore his black stock, in preference to a lace cravat, and like his colleagues, wore knee-breeches and shoes; a French hat, with floating plumes of the three colors, completed this rich costume.
The celebration of this sacrament at Notre Dame was a novel sight to the Parisians, and many attended as if it were a theatrical representation. Many, also, especially amongst the military, found it rather a matter of raillery than of edification; and those who, during the Revolution, had contributed all their strength to the overthrow of the worship which the First Consul had just re-established, could with difficulty conceal their indignation and their chagrin.
The common people saw in the Te Deum which was sung that day for peace and the Concordat, only an additional gratification of their curiosity; but among the middle classes there was a large number of pious persons, who had deeply regretted the suppression of the forms of devotion in which they had been reared, and who were very happy in returning to the old worship. And, indeed, there was then no manifestation of superstition or of bigotry sufficient to alarm the enemies of intolerance.
The clergy were exceedingly careful not to appear too exacting; they demanded little, condemned no one; and the representative of the Holy Father, the cardinal legate, pleased all, except perhaps a few dissatisfied old priests, by his indulgence, the worldly grace of his manners, and the freedom of his conduct. This prelate was entirely in accord with the First Consul, and he took great pleasure in conversing with him.
It is also certain, that apart from all religious sentiment, the fidelity of the people to their ancient customs made them return with pleasure to the repose and celebration of Sunday. The Republican calendar was doubtless wisely computed; but every one is at first sight struck with the ridiculousness of replacing the legend of the saints of the old calendar with the days of the ass, the hog, the turnip, the onion, etc. Besides, if it was skillfully computed, it was by no means conveniently divided. I recall on this subject the remark of a man of much wit, and who, notwithstanding the disapprobation which his remark implied, nevertheless desired the establishment of the Republican system, everywhere except in the almanac. When the decree of the Convention which ordered the adoption of the Republican calendar was published, he remarked: "They have done finely; but they have to fight two enemies who never yield, the beard, and the white shirt."
[That is to say, the barber and the washerwoman, for whom ten days was too long an interval.—TRANS.]
The truth is, the interval from one decadi to another was too long for the working-classes, and for all those who were constantly occupied. I do not know whether it was the effect of a deep-rooted habit, but people accustomed to working six days in succession, and resting on the seventh, found nine days of consecutive labor too long, and consequently the suppression of the decadi was universally approved. The decree which ordered the publication of marriage bans on Sunday was not so popular, for some persons were afraid of finding in this the revival of the former dominance of the clergy over the civil authorities.
A few days after the solemn re-establishment of the catholic worship, there arrived at the Tuileries a general officer, who would perhaps have preferred the establishment of Mahomet, and the change of Notre Dame into a mosque. He was the last general-in-chief of the army of Egypt, and was said to have turned Mussulman at Cairo, ex-Baron de Menou. In spite of the defeat by the English which he had recently undergone in Egypt, General Abdallah-Menou was well received by the First Consul, who appointed him soon after governor-general of Piedmont. General Menou was of tried courage, and had given proof of it elsewhere, as well as on the field of battle, and amid the most trying circumstances.
After the 10th of August, although belonging to the Republican party, he had accompanied Louis Sixteenth to the Assembly, and had been denounced as a Royalist by the Jacobins. In 1795 the Faubourg Saint Antoine having risen en masse, and advanced against the Convention, General Menou had surrounded and disarmed the seditious citizens; but he had refused to obey the atrocious orders of the commissioners of the Convention, who decreed that the entire faubourg should be burned, in order to punish the inhabitants for their continued insurrections. Some time afterwards, having again refused to obey the order these commissioners of the Convention gave, to mow down with grapeshot the insurrectionists of Paris, he had been summoned before a commission, which would not have failed to send him to the guillotine, if General Bonaparte, who had succeeded him in the command of the army of the interior, had not used all his influence to save his life. Such repeated acts of courage and generosity are enough, and more than enough, to cause us to pardon in this brave officer, the very natural pride with which he boasted of having armed the National Guards, and having caused the tricolor to be substituted for the white flag. The tricolor he called my flag. From the government of Piedmont he passed to that of Venice; and died in 1810 for love of an actress, whom he had followed from Venice to Reggio, in spite of his sixty years.
The institution of the order of the Legion of Honor preceded by a few days the proclamation of the Consulate for life, which proclamation was the occasion of a fete, celebrated on the 15th of August. This was the anniversary of the birth of the First Consul, and the opportunity was used in order to make for the first time this anniversary a festival. On that day the First Consul was thirty-three years old.
In the month of October following I went with the First Consul on his journey into Normandy, where we stopped at Ivry, and the First Consul visited the battlefield. He said, on arriving there, "Honor to the memory of the best Frenchman who ever sat upon the throne of France," and ordered the restoration of the column, which had been formerly erected, in memory of the victory achieved by Henry the Fourth. The reader will perhaps desire to read here the inscriptions, which were engraved by his order, on the four faces of the pyramid.
All these inscriptions have since been effaced, and replaced by this, "On this spot Henry the Fourth stood the day of the battle of Ivry, 14th March, 1590."
Monsieur Ledier, Mayor of Ivry, accompanied the First Consul on this excursion; and the First Consul held a long conversation with him, in which he appeared to be agreeably impressed. He did not form so good an opinion of the Mayor of Evreux, and interrupted him abruptly, in the midst of a complimentary address which this worthy magistrate was trying to make him, by asking if he knew his colleague, the Mayor of Ivry. "No, general," replied the mayor. "Well, so much the worse for you; I trust you will make his acquaintance."
It was also at Evreux that an official of high rank amused Madame Bonaparte and her suite, by a naivete which the First Consul alone did not find diverting, because he did not like such simplicity displayed by an official. Monsieur de Ch—— did the honors of the country town to the wife of the First Consul, and this, in spite of his age, with much zeal and activity; and Madame Bonaparte, among other questions which. her usual kindness and grace dictated to her, asked him if he was married, and if he had a family. "Indeed, Madame, I should think so," replied Monsieur de Ch—— with a smile and a bow, "j'ai cinq-z-enfants." —"Oh, mon Dieu," cried Madame Bonaparte, "what a regiment! That is extraordinary; what, sir, seize enfants?"—"Yes, Madame, cinq-z-enfants, cinq-z-enfants," repeated the official, who did not see anything very marvelous in it, and who wondered at the astonishment shown by Madame Bonaparte. At last some one explained to her the mistake which la liaison dangereuse of M. de Ch had caused her to make, and added with comic seriousness, "Deign, Madame, to excuse M. de Ch——. The Revolution has interrupted the prosecution of his studies." He was more than sixty years of age.
From Evreux we set out for Rouen, where we arrived at three o'clock in the afternoon. Chaptal, Minister of the Interior, Beugnot, Prefect of the Department, and Cambaceres, Archbishop of Rouen, came to meet the First Consul at some distance from the city. The Mayor Fontenay waited at the gates, and presented the keys. The First Consul held them some time in his hands, and then returned them to the mayor, saying to him loud enough to be heard by the crowd which surrounded the carriage,
"Citizens, I cannot trust the keys of the city to any one better than the worthy magistrate who so worthily enjoys my confidence and your own;" and made Fontenay enter his carriage, saying he wished to honor Rouen in the person of its mayor.
Madame Bonaparte rode in the carriage with her husband; General Moncey, Inspector-general of the Constabulary, on horseback on the right; in the second carriage was General Soult and his aides-de-camp; in the third carriage, General Bessieres and M. de Lugay; in the fourth, General Lauriston; then came the carriages of the personal attendants, Hambard, Hebert, and I being in the first.
It is impossible to give an idea of the enthusiasm of the inhabitants of Rouen on the arrival of the First Consul. The market-porters and the boatmen in grand costume awaited us outside the city; and when the carriage which held the two august personages was in sight, these brave men placed themselves in line, two and two, and preceded thus the carriage to the hotel of the prefecture, where the First Consul alighted. The prefect and the mayor of Rouen, the archbishop, and the general commanding the division dined with the First Consul, who showed a most agreeable animation during the repast, and with much solicitude asked information as to the condition of manufactures, new discoveries in the art of manufacturing, in fact, as to everything relating to the prosperity of this city, which was essentially industrial.
In the evening, and almost the whole night, an immense crowd surrounded the hotel, and filled the gardens of the prefecture, which were illuminated and ornamented with allegorical transparencies in praise of the First Consul; and each time he showed himself on the terrace of the garden the air resounded with applause and acclamations which seemed most gratifying to him.
The next morning, after having made on horseback the tour of the city, and visited the grand sites by which it is surrounded, the First Consul heard mass, which was celebrated at eleven o'clock by the archbishop in, the chapel of the prefecture. An hour after he had to receive the general council of the department, the council of the prefecture, the municipal council, the clergy of Rouen, and the courts of justice, and was obliged to listen to a half-dozen discourses, all expressed in nearly the same terms, and to which he replied in such a manner as to give the orators the highest opinion of their own merit. All these bodies, on leaving the First Consul, were presented to Madame Bonaparte, who received them with her accustomed grace, in, the evening Madame Bonaparte held a reception for the wives of the officials, at which the First Consul was present, of which fact some availed themselves to present to him several emigres, who had recently returned under the act of amnesty, and whom he received graciously.
After which followed crowds, illuminations, acclamations, all similar to those of the evening before. Every one wore an air of rejoicing which delighted me, and contrasted strangely, I thought, with the dreadful wooden houses, narrow, filthy streets, and Gothic buildings which then distinguished the town of Rouen.
Monday, Nov. 1, at seven o'clock in the morning, the First Consul mounted his horse, and, escorted by a detachment of the young men of the city, forming a volunteer guard, passed the bridge of boats, and reached the Faubourg Saint-Sever. On his return from this excursion, we found the populace awaiting him at the head of the bridge, whence they escorted him to the hotel of the prefecture, manifesting the liveliest joy.
After breakfast, there was a high mass by the archbishop, the occasion being the fete of All Saints; then came the learned societies, the chiefs of administration, and justices of the peace, with their speeches, one of which contained a remarkable sentence, in which these good magistrates, in their enthusiasm, asked the First Consul's permission to surname him the great justice of the peace of Europe. As they left the Consul's apartment I noticed their spokesman; he had tears in his eyes, and was repeating with pride the reply he had just received.
I regret that I do not remember his name, but I was told that he was one of the most highly esteemed men in Rouen. His countenance inspired confidence, and bore an expression of frankness, which prepossessed me in his favor.
In the evening the First Consul went to the theater, which was packed to the ceiling, and offered a charming sight. The municipal authorities had a delightful fete prepared, which the First Consul found much to his taste, and upon which he complimented the prefect and the mayor on several different occasions. After witnessing the opening of the ball, he made two or three turns in the hall, and retired, escorted by the staff of the National Guard.
On Tuesday much of the day was spent by the First Consul in visiting the workshops of the numerous factories of the city, accompanied by the minister of the interior, the prefect, the mayor, the general commanding the division, the inspector-general of police, and the staff of the Consular Guard. In a factory of the Faubourg Saint-Sever, the minister of the interior presented to him the dean of the workmen, noted as having woven the first piece of velvet in France; and the First Consul, after complimenting this honorable old man, granted him a pension. Other rewards and encouragements were likewise distributed to several parties whose useful inventions commended them to public gratitude.
Wednesday morning early we left for Elbeuf, where we arrived at ten o'clock, preceded by threescore young men of the most distinguished families of the city, who, following the example of those of Rouen, aspired to the honor of forming the guard of the First Consul.
The country around us was covered with an innumerable multitude, gathered from all the surrounding communes. The First Consul alighted at Elbeuf, at the house of the mayor, where he took breakfast, and then visited the town in detail, obtaining information everywhere; and knowing that one of the first wishes of the citizens was the construction of a road from Elbeuf to a small neighboring town called Romilly, he gave orders to the minister of the interior to begin work upon it immediately.
At Elbeuf, as at Rouen, the First Consul was overwhelmed with homage and benedictions; and we returned from this last town at four o'clock in the afternoon.
The merchants of Rouen had prepared a fete in the hall of the Stock Exchange, which the First Consul and his family attended after dinner. He remained a long time on the ground floor of this building, where there were displayed magnificent specimens from the industries of this Department. He examined everything, and made Madame Bonaparte do the same; and she also purchased several pieces of cloth.
The First Consul then ascended to the first floor, where, in the grand saloon, were gathered about a hundred ladies, married and single, and almost all pretty, the wives and daughters of the principal merchants of Rouen, who were waiting to compliment him. He seated himself in this charming circle, and remained there perhaps a quarter of an hour; then passed into another room, where awaited him the representation of a little proverb, containing couplets expressing, as may be imagined, the attachment and gratitude of the inhabitants of Rouen. This play was followed by a ball.
Thursday evening the First Consul announced that he would leave for Havre the next morning at daybreak; and exactly at five o'clock I was awakened by Hebert, who said that at six o'clock we would set out. I awoke feeling badly, was sick the whole day, and would have given much to have slept a few hours longer; but we were compelled to begin our journey. Before entering his carriage, the First Consul made a present to Monseigneur, the archbishop, of a snuff-box with his portrait, and also gave one to the mayor, on which was the inscription, 'Peuple Francais'.
We stopped at Caudebec for breakfast. The mayor of this town presented to the First Consul a corporal who had made the campaign of Italy (his name was, I think, Roussel), and who had received a sword of honor as a reward for his brave conduct at Marengo. He was at Caudebec on a half- year's furlough, and asked the First Consul's permission to be a sentinel at the door of the apartment of the august travelers, which was granted; and after the First Consul and Madame Bonaparte were seated at the table, Roussel was sent for, and invited to breakfast with his former general. At Havre and at Dieppe the First Consul invited thus to his table all the soldiers or sailors who had received guns, sabers, or boarding-axes of honor. The First Consul stopped an hour at Bolbec, showing much attention and interest in examining the products of the industries of the district, complimenting the guards of honor who passed before him on their fine appearance, thanking the clergy for the prayers in his behalf which they addressed to Heaven, and leaving for the poor, either in their own hands, or in the hands of the mayor, souvenirs of his stay. On the arrival of the First Consul at Havre, the city was illuminated; and the First Consul and his numerous cortege passed between two rows of illuminations and columns of fire of all kinds. The vessels in the port appeared like a forest on fire; being covered with colored lamps to the very top of their masts. The First Consul received, the day of his arrival at Havre, only a part of the authorities of the city, and soon after retired, saying that he was fatigued; but at six o'clock in the morning of the next day he was on horseback, and until two o'clock he rode along the seacoast and low hills of Ingouville for more than a league, and the banks of the Seine as far as the cliffs of Hoc. He also made a tour outside of the citadel. About three o'clock the First Consul began to receive the authorities. He conversed with them in great detail upon the work that had, been done at this place in order that their port, which he always called the port of Paris, might reach the highest degree of prosperity, and did the sub-prefect, the mayor, the two presidents of the tribunals, the commandant of the place, and the chief of the tenth demi-brigade of light infantry the honor of inviting them to his table.
In the evening the First Consul went to the theater, where they played a piece composed for the occasion, about as admirable as such pieces usually are, but on which the First Consul and Madame Bonaparte especially complimented the authors. The illuminations were more brilliant even than on the evening before; and I remember especially that the largest number of transparencies bore the inscription, 18th Brumaire, year VIII.
Sunday, at seven o'clock in the morning, after having visited the Marine Arsenal and all the docks, the weather being very fine, the First Consul embarked in a little barge, and remained in the roadstead for several hours, escorted by a large number of barges filled with men and elegantly dressed women, and musicians playing the favorite airs of the First Consul. Then a few hours were again passed in the reception of merchants, the First Consul assuring them that he had taken the greatest pleasure in conferring with them in regard to the commerce of Havre with the colonies. In the evening, there was a fete prepared by the merchants, at which the First Consul remained for half an hour; and on Monday, at five o'clock in the morning, he embarked on a lugger for Honfleur. At the time of his departure the weather was a little threatening, and the First Consul was advised not to embark. Madame Bonaparte, whose ears this rumor reached, ran after her husband, begging him not to set out; but he embraced her, laughing, calling her a coward, and entered the vessel which was awaiting him. He had hardly embarked when the wind suddenly lulled, and the weather became very fine. On his return to Havre, the First Consul held a review on the Place de la Citadelle, and visited the artillery barracks, after which he received, until the evening, a large number of public dignitaries and merchants; and the next day, at six o'clock in the morning, we set out for Dieppe.
When we arrived at Fecamp, the town presented an extremely singular spectacle. All the inhabitants of the town, and of the adjoining towns and villages, followed the clergy, chanting a Te Deum for the anniversary of the 18th Brumaire; and these countless voices rising to heaven for him affected the First Consul profoundly. He repeated several times during breakfast that he had felt more emotion on hearing these chants under the dome of heaven than he had ever felt while listening to the most brilliant music.
We arrived at Dieppe at six o'clock in the evening. The First Consul retired, only after having received all their felicitations, which were certainly very sincere there, as throughout all France at that time. The next day, at eight o'clock, the First Consul repaired to the harbor, where he remained a long while watching the return of the fishermen, and afterwards visited the faubourg of Pollet, and the work on the docks, which was then just beginning. He admitted to his table the sub-prefect, the mayor, and three sailors of Dieppe who had been given boarding-axes of honor for distinguishing themselves in the combat off Boulogne. He ordered the construction of a breakwater in the inner port, and the continuation of a canal for navigation, which was to be extended as far as Paris, and of which, until this present time, only a few fathoms have been made. From Dieppe we went to Gisors and to Beauvais; and finally the First Consul and his wife returned to Saint-Cloud, after an absence of two weeks, during which workmen had been busily employed in restoring the ancient royal residence, which the First Consul had decided to accept, as I have before stated.
The tour of the First Consul through the wealthiest and most enlightened departments of France had removed from his mind the apprehension of many difficulties which he had feared at first in the execution of his plans. Everywhere he had been treated as a monarch, and not only he personally, but Madame Bonaparte also, had been received with all the honors usually reserved for crowned heads. There was no difference between the homage offered them at this time, and that which they received later, even during the Empire, when their Majesties made tours of their states at different times. For this reason I shall give some details; and if they should seem too long, or not very novel, the reader will remember that I am not writing only for those who lived during the Empire. The generation which witnessed such great deeds, and which, under their very eyes, and from the beginning of his career, saw the greatest man of this century, has already given place to another generation, which can judge him only by what others may narrate of him. What may be familiar to those who saw with their own eyes is not so to others, who can only take at second-hand those things which they had no opportunity of seeing for themselves. Besides, details omitted as frivolous or commonplace by history, which makes a profession of more gravity, are perfectly appropriate in simple memoirs, and often enable one to understand and judge the epoch more correctly. For instance, it seems to me that the enthusiasm displayed by the entire population and all the local authorities for the First Consul and his wife during their tour in Normandy showed clearly that the chief of the state would have no great opposition to fear, certainly none on the part of the nation, whenever it should please him to change his title, and proclaim himself Emperor.
Soon after our return, by a decree of the consuls four ladies were assigned to Madame Bonaparte to assist her in doing the honors of the palace. They were Mesdames de Remusat, de Tallouet, de Lucay, and de Lauriston. Under the Empire they became ladies-in-waiting. Madame de Lauriston often raised a smile by little exhibitions of parsimony, but she was good and obliging. Madame de Remusat possessed great merit, and had sound judgment, though she appeared somewhat haughty, which was the more remarkable as M. de Remusat was exactly the reverse. Subsequently there was another lady of honor, Madame de La Rochefoucault, of whom I shall have occasion to speak later.
The lady of the robes, Madame de Lucay, was succeeded by Madame La
Vallette, so gloriously known afterwards by her devotion to her husband.
There were twenty-four French ladies-in-waiting, among whom were Mesdames
de Remusat, de Tallouet, de Lauriston, Ney, d'Arberg, Louise d'Arberg
(afterwards the Countess of Lobau), de Walsh-Serent, de Colbert, Lannes,
Savary, de Turenne, Octave de Segur, de Montalivet, de Marescot, de
Bouille Solar, Lascaris, de Brignole, de Canisy, de Chevreuse, Victor de
Mortemart, de Montmorency, Matignon, and Maret. There were also twelve
These ladies served in turn one month each, there being thus two French and one Italian lady on duty together. The Emperor at first did not admit unmarried ladies among the ladies-in-waiting; but he relaxed this rule first in favor of Mademoiselle Louise d'Arberg (afterwards Countess of Lobau), and then in favor of Mademoiselle de Lucay, who has since married Count Philip de Segur, author of the excellent history of the campaign in Russia; and these two young ladies by their prudence and circumspect conduct proved themselves above criticism even at court.
There were four lady ushers, Mesdames Soustras, Ducrest-Villeneuve,
Felicite Longroy, and Egle Marchery.
Two first ladies' maids, Mesdames Roy and Marco de St. Hilaire, who had under their charge the grand wardrobe and the jewel-box.
There were four ladies' maids in ordinary.
A lady reader.
The men on the staff of the Empress's household were the following: A grand equerry, Senator Harville, who discharged the duties of a chevalier of honor.
A head chamberlain, the general of division, Nansouty.
A vice-chamberlain, introducer of the ambassadors, de Beaumont.
Four chamberlains in ordinary, de Courtomer, Degrave, Galard de Bearn,
Hector d'Aubusson de la Feuillade.
Four equerries, Corbineau, Berckheim, d'Audenarde, and Fouler.
A superintendent-general of her Majesty's household, Hinguerlot.
A secretary of commands, Deschamps.
Two head valets, Frere and Douville.
Four valets in ordinary.
Four men servants.
Two head footmen, L'Esperance and d'Argens. Six ordinary footmen. The staff of the kitchen and sanitation were the same as in the household of the Emperor; and besides these, six pages of the Emperor were always in attendance upon the Empress.
The chief almoner was Ferdinand de Rohan, former archbishop of Cambray.
Another decree of the same date fixed the duties of the prefects of the palace. The four head prefects of the consular palace were de Remusat, de Crayamel (afterwards appointed introduces of ambassadors, and master of ceremonies), de Lugay, and Didelot. The latter subsequently became prefect of the Department of the Cher.
Malmaison was no longer sufficient for the First Consul, whose household, like that of Madame Bonaparte, became daily more numerous. A much larger building had become necessary, and the First Consul fixed his choice upon Saint-Cloud.
The inhabitants of Saint-Cloud addressed a petition to the Corps Legislatif, praying that the First Consul would make their chateau his summer residence; and this body hastened to transmit it to him, adding their prayers to the same effect, and making comparisons which they believed would be agreeable to him. The general refused formally, saying that when he should have finished and laid down the duties with which the people had charged him, he would feel honored by any recompense which the popular will might award him; but that so long as he was the chief of the Government he would accept nothing.
Notwithstanding the determined tone of this reply, the inhabitants of the village of Saint-Cloud, who had the greatest interest in the petition being granted, renewed it when the First Consul was chosen consul for life; and he then consented to accept. The expenses of the repairs and furnishing were immense, and greatly exceeded the calculations that had been made for him; nevertheless, he was not satisfied either with the furniture or ornaments, and complained to Charvet, the concierge at Malmaison, whom he appointed to the same post in the new palace, and whom he had charged with the general supervision of the furnishing and the placing of the furniture, that he had fitted up apartments suitable only for a mistress, and that they contained only gewgaws and spangles, and nothing substantial. On this occasion, also, he gave another proof of his habitual desire to do good, in spite of prejudices which had not yet spent their force. Knowing that there were at Saint-Cloud a large number of the former servants of Queen Marie Antoinette, he charged Charvet to offer them either their old places or pensions, and most of them resumed their former posts. In 1814 the Bourbons were far from acting so generously, for they discharged all employees, even those who had served Marie Antoinette.
The First Consul had been installed at Saint-Cloud only a short while, when the chateau, which had thus again become the residence of the sovereign at enormous expense, came near falling a prey to the flames. The guard room was under the vestibule, in the center of the palace; and one night, the soldiers having made an unusually large fire, the stove became so hot that a sofa, whose back touched one of the flues which warmed the saloon, took fire, and the games were quickly communicated to the other furniture. The officer on duty perceiving this, immediately notified the concierge, and together they ran to General Duroc's room and awoke him. The general rose in haste, and, commanding perfect silence, made a chain of men. He took his position at the pool, in company with the concierge, and thence passed buckets of water to the soldiers for two or three hours, at the end of which time the fire was extinguished, but only after devouring all the furniture; and it was not until the next morning that the First Consul, Josephine, Hortense, in short, all the other occupants of the chateau, learned of the accident, all of whom, the First Consul especially, expressed their appreciation of the consideration shown in not alarming them.
To prevent, or at least to render such accidents less likely in future, the First Consul organized a night-guard at Saint-Cloud, and subsequently did the same at all his residences; which guard-was called "the watch."
During his early occupation of Saint-Cloud the First Consul slept in the same bed with his wife; afterwards etiquette forbade this; and as a result, conjugal affection was somewhat chilled, and finally the First Consul occupied an apartment at some distance from that of Madame Bonaparte. To reach her room it was necessary to cross a long corridor, on the right and left of which were the rooms of the ladies-in-waiting, the women of the service, etc. When he wished to pass the night with his wife, he undressed in his own room, and went thence in his wrapper and night-cap, I going before him with a candle. At the end of this corridor a staircase of fifteen or sixteen steps led to the apartment of Madame Bonaparte. It was a great joy to her to receive a visit from her husband, and every one was informed of it next morning. I can see her now rubbing her little hands, saying, "I rose late to-day; but, you see, it is because Bonaparte spent the night with me." On such days she was more amiable than ever, refused no one, and all got whatever they requested. I experienced proofs of this myself many times.
One evening as I was conducting the First Consul on one of these visits to his wife, we perceived in the corridor a handsome young fellow coming out of the apartment of one of Madame Bonaparte's women servants. He tried to steal away; but the First Consul cried in a loud voice, "Who goes there? Where are you going? What do you want? What is your name?" He was merely a valet of Madame Bonaparte, and, stupefied by these startling inquiries, replied in a frightened voice that he had just executed an errand for Madame Bonaparte. "Very well," replied the First Consul, "but do not let me catch you again." Satisfied that the gallant would profit by the lesson, the general did not seek to learn his name, nor that of his inamorata. This reminds me of an occasion on which he was much more severe in regard to another chambermaid of Madame Bonaparte. She was young, and very pretty, and inspired very tender sentiments in Rapp and E——, two aides-de-camp, who besieged her with their sighs, and sent her flowers and billets-doux. The young girl, at least such was the opinion of every one, gave them no encouragement, and Josephine was much attached to her; nevertheless, when the First Consul observed the gallantries of the young men, he became angry, and had the poor girl discharged, in spite of her tears and the prayers of Madame Bonaparte and of the brave and honest Colonel Rapp, who swore naively that the fault was entirely on his side, that the poor child had not listened to him, and that her conduct was worthy of all praise. Nothing availed against the resolution of the First Consul, whose only reply was, "I will have nothing improper in my household, and no scandal."
Whenever the First Consul made a distribution of arms of honor, there was always a banquet at the Tuileries, to which were admitted, without distinction, and whatever their grade, all who had a share in these rewards. At these banquets, which took place in the grand gallery of the chateau, there were sometimes two hundred guests; and General Duroc being master of ceremonies on these occasions, the First Consul took care to recommend him to intermingle the private soldiers, the colonels, the generals, etc. He ordered the domestics to show especial attention to the private soldiers, and to see that they had plenty of the best to eat and to drink. These are the longest repasts I have seen the emperor make; and on these occasions he was amiable and entirely unconstrained, making every effort to put his guests entirely at their ease, though with many of them this was a difficult task. Nothing was more amusing than to see these brave soldiers sitting two feet from-the table, not daring to approach their plates or the food, red to the ears, and with their necks stretched out towards the general, as if to receive the word of command. The First Consul made them relate the notable deeds which had brought each his national recognition, and often laughed boisterously at their singular narrations. He encouraged them to eat, and frequently drank to their health; but in spite of all this, his encouragement failed to overcome the timidity of some, and the servants removed the plates of each course without their having touched them, though this constraint did not prevent their being full of joy and enthusiasm as they left the table. "Au revoir, my brave men," the First Consul would say to them; "baptize for me quickly these new-born," touching with his fingers their sabers of honor. God knows whether they spared themselves!
This preference of the First Consul for the private soldier recalls an instance which took-place at Malmaison, and which furnishes, besides, a complete refutal of the charges of severity and harshness which have been brought against him.
The First Consul set out on foot one morning, dressed in his gray riding- coat, and accompanied by General Duroc, on the road to Marly. Chatting as they walked, they saw a plowman, who turned a furrow as he came towards them.
"See here, my good man," said the First Consul, stopping him, "your furrow is not straight. You do not know your business."—"It is not you, my fine gentleman, who can teach me. You cannot do as well. No, indeed -you think so; very well, just try it," replied the good man, yielding his place to the First Consul, who took the plow-handle, and making the team start, commenced to give his lesson. But he did not plow a single yard of a straight line. The whole furrow was crooked. "Come, come," said the countryman, putting his hand on that of the general to resume his plow, "your work is no good. Each one to his trade. Saunter along, that is your business." But the First Consul did not proceed without paying for the lesson he had received. General Duroc handed the laborer two or three louis to compensate him for the loss of time they had caused him; and the countryman, astonished by this generosity, quitted his plow to relate his adventure, and met on the way a woman whom he told that he had met two big men, judging by what he had in his hand.
The woman, better informed, asked him to describe the dress of the men, and from his description ascertained that it was the First Consul and one of his staff; the good man was overcome with astonishment. The next day he made a brave resolution, and donning his best clothes, presented himself at Malmaison, requesting to speak to the First Consul, to thank him, he said, for the fine present he had given him the day before.
I notified the First Consul of this visit, and he ordered me to bring the laborer in. While I was gone to announce him, he had, according to his own expression, taken his courage in both hands to prepare himself for this grand interview; and I found him on my return, standing in the center of the antechamber (for he did not dare to sit upon the sofas, which though very simple seemed to him magnificent), and pondering what he should say to the First Consul in token of his gratitude. I preceded him, and he followed me, placing each foot cautiously on the carpet; and when I opened the door of the cabinet, he insisted with much civility on my going first. When the First Consul had nothing private to say or dictate, he permitted the door to stand open; and he now made me a sign not to close it, so that I was able to see and hear all that passed.
The honest laborer commenced, on entering the cabinet, by saluting the back of de Bourrienne, who could not see him, occupied as he was in writing upon a small table placed in the recess of a window. The First Consul saw him make his bows, himself reclining in his armchair, one of the arms of which, according to habit, he was pricking with the point of his knife. Finally he spoke. "Well, my brave fellow." The peasant turned, recognized him, and saluted anew. "Well," continued the First Consul, "has the harvest been fine this year?"—"No, with all respect, Citizen General, but not so very bad."
"In order that the earth should produce, it is necessary that it should be turned up, is it not so? Fine gentlemen are no good for such work."
"Meaning no offense, General, the bourgeois have hands too soft to handle a plow. There is need of a hard fist to handle these tools."
"That is so," replied the First Consul, smiling. "But big and strong as you are, you should handle something else than a plow. A good musket, for instance, or the handle of a good saber."
The laborer drew himself up with an air of pride. "General, in my time I have done as others. I had been married six or seven years when these d—-d Prussians (pardon me, General) entered Landrecies. The requisition came. They gave me a gun and a cartridge-box at the Commune headquarters, and march! My soul, we were not equipped like those big gallants that I saw just now on entering the courtyard." He referred to the grenadiers of the Consular Guard.
"Why did you quit the service?" resumed the First Consul, who appeared to take great interest in the conversation.
"My faith, General, each one in his turn, and there are saber strokes enough for every one. One fell on me there" (the worthy laborer bent his head and divided the locks of his hair); "and after some weeks in the field hospital, they gave me a discharge to return to my wife and my plow."
"Have you any children?"
"I have three, General, two boys and a girl."
"You must make a soldier of the oldest. If he will conduct himself well, I will take care of him. Adieu, my brave man. Whenever I can help you, come to see me again." The First Consul rose, made de Bourrienne give him some louis, which he added to those the laborer had already received from him, and directed me to show him out, and we had already reached the antechamber, when the First Consul called the peasant back to say to him, "You were at Fleurus?"—"Yes, General."—"Can you tell me the name of your general-in-chief?"—"Indeed, I should think so. It was General Jourdan."—"That is correct. Au revoir;" and I carried off the old soldier of the Republic, enchanted with his reception.
At the beginning of this year (1803), there arrived at Paris an envoy from Tunis, who presented the First Consul, on the part of the Bey, with ten Arab horses. The Bey at that time feared the anger of England, and hoped to find in France a powerful ally, capable of protecting him; and he could not have found a better time to make the application, for everything announced the rupture of the peace of Amiens, over which all Europe had so greatly rejoiced, for England had kept none of her promises, and had executed no article of the treaty. On his side, the First Consul, shocked by such bad faith, and not wishing to be a dupe, openly prepared for war, and ordered the filling up of the ranks, and a new levy of one hundred and twenty thousand conscripts. War was officially declared in June, but hostilities had already begun before this time.
At the end of this month the First Consul made a journey to Boulogne, and visited Picardy, Flanders, and Belgium, in order to organize an expedition which he was meditating against the English, and to place the northern seacoast in a state of defense. He returned to Paris in August, but set out in November for a second visit to Boulogne.
This constant traveling was too much for Hambard, who for a long time had been in feeble health; and when the First Consul was on the point of setting out for his first tour in the North, Hambard had asked to be excused, alleging, which was only too true, the bad state of his health. "See how you are," said the First Consul, "always sick and complaining; and if you stay here, who then will shave me?"—"General," replied Hambard, "Constant knows how to shave as well as I." I was present, and occupied at that very moment in dressing the First Consul. He looked at me and said, "Well, you queer fellow, since you are so skilled, you shall make proof of it at once. We must see how you will do." I knew the misadventure of poor Hebert, which I have already related; and not wishing a like experience, I had been for some time practicing the art of shaving. I had paid a hairdresser to teach me his trade; and I had even, in my moments of leisure, served an apprenticeship in his shop, where I had shaved, without distinction, all his customers. The chins of these good people had suffered somewhat before I had acquired sufficient dexterity to lay a razor on the consular chin; but by dint of repeated experiments on the beards of the commonalty I had achieved a degree of skill which inspired me with the greatest confidence; so, in obedience to the order of the First Consul, I brought the warm water, opened the razor boldly, and began operations. Just as I was going to place the razor upon the face of the First Consul, he raised himself abruptly, turned, and fastened both eyes upon me, with an expression of severity and interrogation which I am unable to describe. Seeing that I was not at all embarrassed, he seated himself again, saying to me in a mild tone, "Proceed." This I did with sufficient skill to satisfy him; and when I had finished, he said to me, "Hereafter you are to shave me;" and, in fact, after that he was unwilling to be shaved by any one else. From that time also my duties became much more exacting, for every day I had to shave the First Consul; and I admit that it was not an easy thing to do, for while he was being shaved, he often spoke, read the papers, moved about in his chair, turned himself abruptly, and I was obliged to use the greatest precautions in order not to cut him. Happily this never occurred. When by chance he did not speak, he remained immobile and stiff as a statue, and could not be made to lower, nor raise, nor bend his head to one side, as was necessary to accomplish the task easily. He also had a singular fancy of having one half of his face lathered and shaved before beginning the other, and would not allow me to pass to the other side of his face until the first half was completely finished, as the First Consul found that plan suited him best.
Later, when I had become his chief valet, and he deigned to give me proofs of his kindness and esteem, and I could talk with him as freely as his rank permitted, I took the liberty of persuading him to shave himself; for, as I have just said, not wishing to be shaved by any one except me, he was obliged to wait till I could be notified, especially in the army, when his hour of rising was not regular. He refused for a long time to take my advice, though I often repeated it. "Ah, ha, Mr. Idler!" he would say to me, laughing, "you are very anxious for me to do half your work;" but at last I succeeded in satisfying him of my disinterestedness and the wisdom of my advice. The fact is, I was most anxious to persuade him to this; for, considering what would necessarily happen if an unavoidable absence, an illness, or some other reason, had separated me from the First Consul, I could not reflect, without a shudder, of his life being at the mercy of the first comer. As for him, I am sure he never gave the matter a thought; for whatever tales have been related of his suspicious nature, he never took any precaution against the snares which treason might set for him. His sense of security, in this regard, amounted even to imprudence; and consequently all who loved him, especially those who surrounded him, endeavored to make up for this want of precaution by all the vigilance of which they were capable; and it is unnecessary to assert that it was this solicitude for the precious life of my master which had caused me to insist upon the advice I had given him to shave himself.
On the first occasions on which he attempted to put my lessons into practice, it was even more alarming than laughable to watch the Emperor (for such he was then); as in spite of the lessons that I had given him with repeated illustrations, he did not yet know how to hold his razor. He would seize it by the handle, and apply it perpendicularly to his cheek, instead of laying it flat; he would make a sudden dash with the razor, never failing to give himself a cut, and then draw back his hand quickly, crying out, "See there, you scamp; you have made me cut myself." I would then take the razor and finish the operation The next day the same scene would be repeated, but with less bloodshed; and each day the skill of the Emperor improved, until at last, by dint of numberless lessons, he became sufficiently an adept to dispense with me, though he still cut himself now and then, for which he would always mildly reproach me, though jestingly and in kindness. Besides, from the manner in which he began, and which he would never change, it was impossible for him not to cut his face sometimes, for he shaved himself downward, and not upward, like every one else; and this bad method, which all my efforts could not change, added to the habitual abruptness of his movements, made me shudder every time I saw him take his razor in hand.
Madame Bonaparte accompanied the First Consul on the first of these journeys; and there was, as on that to Lyons, a continued succession of fetes and rejoicing.
The inhabitants of Boulogne had, in anticipation of the arrival of the First Consul, raised several triumphal arches, extending from the Montreuil gate as far as the great road which led to his barrack, which was situated in the camp on the right. Each arch of triumph was decorated with evergreens, and thereon could be read the names of the skirmishes and battles in which he had been victorious. These domes and arches of verdure and flowers presented an admirable coup-d'-oeil. One arch of triumph, higher than the others, was placed in the midst of the Rue de l'Ecu (the main street), and the elite of the citizens had assembled around it; while more than a hundred young people with garlands of flowers, children, old men, and a great number of brave men whom military duty had not detained in the camp, awaited with impatience the arrival of the First Consul. At his approach the joyful booming of cannon announced to the English, whose fleet was near by in the sea off Boulogne, the appearance of Napoleon upon the shore on which he had assembled the formidable army he had determined to hurl against England.
The First Consul was mounted upon a small gray horse, which was active as a squirrel. He dismounted, and followed by his brilliant staff, addressed these paternal words to the citizens of the town: "I come to assure the happiness of France. The sentiments which you express, and all your evidences of gratitude, touch me; I shall never forget my entrance into Boulogne, which I have chosen as the center of the reunion of my armies. Citizens, do not be alarmed by this multitude. It is that of the defenders of your country, soon to be the conquerors of haughty England."
The First Consul proceeded on his route, surrounded by the whole populace, who accompanied him to the door of his headquarters, where more than thirty generals received him, though the firing of cannon, the ringing of bells, the cries of joy, ceased only when this great day ended.
The day after our arrival, the First Consul visited the Pont de Brique, a little village situated about half a league from Boulogne. A farmer read to him the following complimentary address:—
"General, in the name of twenty fathers we offer you a score of fine fellows who are, and always will be, at your command. Lead them, General. They can strike a good blow for you when you march into England. As to us, we will discharge another duty. We will till the earth in order that bread may not be wanting to the brave men who will crush the English."
Napoleon, smiling, thanked the patriotic countrymen, and glancing towards the little country house, built on the edge of the highway, spoke to General Berthier, saying, "This is where I wish my headquarters established." Then he spurred his horse and rode off, while a general and some officers remained to execute the order of the First Consul, who, on the very night of his arrival at Boulogne, returned to sleep at Pont de Brique.
They related to me at Boulogne the details of a naval combat which had taken place a short time before our arrival between the French fleet, commanded by Admiral Bruix, and the English squadron with which Nelson blockaded the port of Boulogne. I will relate this as told to me, deeming very unusual the comfortable mode in which the French admiral directed the operations of the sailors.
About two hundred boats, counting gunboats and mortars, barges and sloops, formed the line of defense, the shore and the forts bristling with batteries. Some frigates advanced from the hostile line, and, preceded by two or three brigs, ranged themselves in line of battle before us and in reach of the cannon of our flotilla; and the combat began. Balls flew in every direction. Nelson, who had promised the destruction of the flotilla, re-enforced his line of battle with two other lines of vessels and frigates; and thus placed en echelon, they fought with a vastly superior force. For more than seven hours the sea, covered with fire and smoke, offered to the entire population of Boulogne the superb and frightful spectacle of a naval combat in which more than eighteen hundred cannon were fired at the same time; but the genius of Nelson could not avail against our sailors or soldiers. Admiral Bruix was at his headquarters near the signal station, and from this position directed the fight against Nelson, while drinking with his staff and some ladies of Boulogne whom he had invited to dinner. The guests sang the early victories of the First Consul, while the admiral, without leaving the table, maneuvered the flotilla by means of the signals he ordered. Nelson, eager to conquer, ordered all his naval forces to advance; but the wind being in favor of the French, he was not able to keep the promise he had made in London to burn our fleet, while on the contrary many of his own boats were so greatly damaged, that Admiral Bruix, seeing the English begin to retire, cried "Victory!" pouring out champagne for his guests. The French flotilla suffered very little, while the enemy's squadron was ruined by the steady fire, of our stationary batteries. On that day the English learned that they could not possibly approach the shore at Boulogne, which after this they named the Iron Coast (Cote de Fer).
When the First Consul left Boulogne, he made his arrangements to pass through Abbeville, and to stop twenty four hours there. The mayor of the town left nothing undone towards a suitable reception, and Abbeville was magnificent on that day. The finest trees from the neighboring woods were taken up bodily with their roots to form avenues in all the streets through which the First Consul was to pass; and some of the citizens, who owned magnificent gardens, sent their rarest shrubs to be displayed along his route; and carpets from the factory of Hecquet-Dorval were spread on the ground, to be trodden by his horses. But unforeseen circumstances suddenly cut short the fete.
A courier, sent by the minister of police, arrived as we were approaching the town, who notified the First Consul of a plot to assassinate him two leagues farther on; the very day and hour were named. To baffle the attempt that they intended against his person, the First Consul traversed the city in a gallop, and, followed by some lancers, went to the spot where he was to be attacked, halted about half an hour, ate some Abbeville cakes, and set out. The assassins were deceived. They had not expected his arrival until the next day.
The First Consul and Madame Bonaparte continued their journey through Picardy, Flanders, and the Low Countries. Each day the First Consul received offers of vessels of war from the different council-generals, the citizens continued to offer him addresses, and the mayors to present him with the keys of the cities, as if he exercised royal power. Amiens, Dunkirk, Lille, Bruges, Ghent, Brussels, Liege, and Namur distinguished themselves by the brilliant receptions they gave to the illustrious travelers. The inhabitants of Antwerp presented the First Consul with six magnificent bay horses. Everywhere also, the First Consul left valuable souvenirs of his journey; and by his orders, works were immediately commenced to deepen and improve the port of Amiens. He visited in that city, and in all the others where he stopped, the exposition of the products of industry, encouraging manufacturers by his advice, and favoring them in his decrees. At Liege, he put at the disposal of the prefect of the Our the the sum of three hundred thousand francs to repair the houses burned by the Austrians, in that department, during the early years of the Revolution. Antwerp owes to him the inner port, a basin, and the building of carpenter-shops. At Brussels, he ordered that the Rhine, the Meuse, and the Scheldt should be connected by a canal. He gave to Givet a stone bridge over the Meuse, and at Sedan the widow Madame Rousseau received from him the sum of sixty thousand francs for the re-establishment of the factory destroyed by fire. Indeed, I cannot begin to enumerate all the benefits, both public and private, which the First Consul and Madame Bonaparte scattered along their route.
A little while after our return to Saint-Cloud, the First Consul, while riding in the park with his wife and Cambaceres, took a fancy to drive the four horses attached to the carriage which had been given him by the inhabitants of Antwerp. He took his place on the driver's seat, and took the reins from the hands of Caesar, his coachman, who got up behind the carriage. At that instant they were in the horse-shoe alley, which leads to the road of the Pavilion Breteuil, and of Ville d'Avray. It is stated in the Memorial of St. Helena, that the aide-de-camp, having awkwardly frightened the horses, made them run away; but Caesar, who related to me in detail this sad disaster a few moments after the accident had taken place, said not a word to me about the aide-de-camp; and, in truth, there was needed, to upset the coach, nothing more than the awkwardness of a coachman with so little experience as the First Consul. Besides, the horses were young and spirited, and Caesar himself needed all his skill to guide them. Not feeling his hand on the reins, they set out at a gallop, while Caesar, seeing the new direction they were taking to the right, cried out, "To the left," in a stentorian voice. Consul Cambaceres, even paler than usual, gave himself little concern as to reassuring Madame Bonaparte, who was much alarmed, but screamed with all his might, "Stop, stop! you will break all our necks!" That might well happen, for the First Consul heard nothing, and, besides, could not control the horses; and when he reached, or rather was carried with the speed of lightning to, the very gate, he was not able to keep in the road, but ran against a post, where the carriage fell over heavily, and fortunately the horses stopped. The First Consul was thrown about ten steps, fell on his stomach, and fainted away, and did not revive until some one attempted to lift him up. Madame Bonaparte and the second consul had only slight contusions; but good Josephine had suffered horrible anxiety about her husband. However, although he was badly bruised, he would not be bled, and satisfied himself with a few rubbings with eau de Cologne, his favorite remedy. That evening, on retiring, he spoke gayly of his misadventure, and of the great fright that his colleague had shown, and ended by saying, "We must render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's; let him keep his whip, and let us each mind his own business."
He admitted, however, notwithstanding all his jokes, that he had never thought himself so near death, and that he felt as if he had been dead for a few seconds. I do not remember whether it was on this or another occasion that I heard the Emperor say, that "death was only asleep without dreams."
In the month of October of this year, the First Consul received in public audience Haled-Effendi, the ambassador of the Ottoman Porte.
The arrival of the Turkish ambassador created a sensation at the Tuileries, because he brought a large number of cashmere shawls to the First Consul, which every one was sure would be distributed, and each woman flattered herself that she would be favorably noticed. I think that, without his foreign costume, and without his cashmere shawls, he would have produced little effect on persons accustomed to seeing sovereign princes pay court to the chief of the government at his residence and at their own. His costume even was not more remarkable than that of Roustan, to which we were accustomed; and as to his bows, they were hardly lower than those of the ordinary courtiers of the First Consul. At Paris, it is said, the enthusiasm lasted longer—"It is so odd to be a Turk!" A few ladies had the honor of seeing the bearded ambassador eat. He was polite and even gallant with them, and made them a few presents, which were highly prized; his manners were not too Mohammedan, and he was not much shocked at seeing our pretty Parisians without veils over their faces. One day, which he had spent almost entirely at Saint-Cloud, I saw him go through his prayers. It was in the court of honor, on a broad parapet bordered with a stone balustrade. The ambassador had carpets spread on the side of the apartments, which were afterwards those of the King of Rome; and there he made his genuflexions, under the eyes of many people of the house, who, out of consideration, kept themselves behind their casements. In the evening he was present at the theater, and Zaire or Mahomet, I think, was played; but of course he understood none of it.
In the month of November of this year, the First Consul returned to Boulogne to visit the fleet, and to review the troops who were already assembled in the camps provided for the army with which he proposed to descend on England. I have preserved a few notes and many recollections of my different sojourns at Boulogne. Never did the Emperor make a grander display of military power; nor has there ever been collected at one point troops better disciplined or more ready to march at the least signal of their chief; and it is not surprising that I should have retained in my recollections of this period details which no one has yet, I think, thought of publishing. Neither, if I am not mistaken, could any one be in a better position than I to know them. However, the reader will now judge for himself.
In the different reviews which the First Consul held, he seemed striving to excite the enthusiasm of the soldiers, and to increase their attachment for his person, by assiduously taking advantage of every opportunity to excite their vanity.
One day, having especially noticed the excellent bearing of the Thirty- sixth and Fifty-seventh regiments of the line, and Tenth of light infantry, he made all the officers, from corporal to colonel, come forward; and, placing himself in their midst, evinced his satisfaction by recalling to them occasions when, in the past under the fire of cannon, he had remarked the bearing of these three brave, regiments. He complimented the sub-officers on the good drilling of the soldiers, and the captains and chiefs of battalion on the harmony and precision of their evolutions. In fine, each had his share of praise.
This flattering distinction did not excite the jealousy of the other corps of the army, for each regiment had on that day its own share of compliments, whether small or great; and when the review was over, they went quietly back to their quarters. But the soldiers of the Thirty- sixth, Fifty-seventh, and Tenth, much elated by having been so specially favored, went in the afternoon to drink to their triumph in a public house frequented by the grenadiers of the cavalry of the Guard. They began to drink quietly, speaking of campaigns, of cities taken, of the First Consul, and finally of that morning's review. It then occurred to the young men of Boulogne, who were among the drinkers, to sing couplets of very recent composition, in which were extolled to the clouds the bravery and the exploits of the three regiments, without one word of praise for the rest of the army, not even for the Guard; and it was in the favorite resort of the grenadiers of the Guard that these couplets were sung! These latter maintained at first a gloomy silence; but soon finding it unendurable, they protested loudly against these couplets, which they said were detestable. The quarrel became very bitter; they shouted, heaped insults on each other, taking care not to make too much noise; however, and appointed a meeting for the next day, at four o'clock in the morning, in the suburbs of Marquise, a little village about two leagues from Boulogne. It was very late in the evening when these soldiers left the public house.
More than two hundred grenadiers of the Guard went separately to the place of meeting, and found the ground occupied by an almost equal number of their adversaries of the Thirty-sixth, Fifty-seventh, and Tenth. Wasting no time in explanations, hardly a sound being heard, each soldier drew his sword, and for more than an hour they fought in a cool, deliberate manner which was frightful to behold. A man named Martin, grenadier of the Guard, and of gigantic stature, killed with his own hand seven or eight soldiers of the Tenth. They would probably have continued till all were massacred if General Saint-Hilaire, informed too late of this bloody quarrel, had not sent out in all haste a regiment of cavalry, who put an end to the combat. The grenadiers had lost two men, and the soldiers of the line thirteen, with a large number of wounded on both sides.
The First Consul visited the camp next day, and had brought before him those who had caused this terrible scene, and said to them in a severe tone: "I know why you fought each other; many brave men have fallen in a struggle unworthy of them and of you. You shall be punished. I have given orders that the verses which have been the cause of so much trouble shall be printed. I hope that, in learning your punishment, the ladies of Boulogne will know that you have deserved the blame of your comrades in arms."
However, the troops, and above all the officers, began to grow weary of their sojourn at Boulogne, a town less likely, perhaps, than any other to render such an inactive existence endurable. They did not murmur, however, because never where the First Consul was did murmuring find a place; but they fumed nevertheless under their breath at seeing themselves held in camp or in fort, with England just in sight, only nine or ten leagues distant. Pleasures were rare at Boulogne; the women, generally pretty, but extremely timid, did not dare to hold receptions at their own houses, for fear of displeasing their husbands, very jealous men, as are all those of Picardy. There was, however, a handsome hall in which balls and soirees could easily have been given; but, although very anxious to do this, these ladies dared not make use of it. At last a considerable number of Parisian beauties, touched by the sad fate of so many brave and handsome officers, came to Boulogne to charm away the ennui of so long a peace. The example of the Parisian women piqued those of Abbeville, Dunkirk, Amiens; and soon Boulogne was filled with strangers, male and female, who came to do the honors of the city. Among all these ladies the one most conspicuous for style, intellect, and beauty was a Dunkirk lady, named Madame F——, an excellent musician, full of gayety, grace, and youth; it was impossible for Madame F——not to turn many heads. Colonel Joseph, brother of the First Consul, General Soult, who was afterwards Marshal, Generals Saint-Hilaire and Andre Ossy, and a few other great personages, were at her feet; though two alone, it is said, succeeded in gaining her affections, and of those two, one was Colonel Joseph, who soon had the reputation of being the preferred lover of Madame F——. The beautiful lady from Dunkirk often gave soirees, at which Colonel Joseph never failed to be present. Among all his rivals, and certainly they were very numerous, one alone bore him ill-will; this was the general-in-chief, Soult. This rivalry did no injury to the interests of Madame F——; but like a skillful tactician, she adroitly provoked the jealousy of her two suitors, while accepting from each of them compliments, bouquets, and more than that sometimes.
The First Consul, informed of the amours of his brother, concluded one evening to go and make himself merry in the little salon of Madame F——, who was very plainly domesticated in a room on the first floor in the house of a joiner, in the Rue des Minimes. In order not to be recognized, he was dressed as a citizen, and wore a wig and spectacles. He took into his confidence General Bertrand, who was already in great favor with him, and who did all in his power to render his disguise complete.
Thus disguised, the First Consul and his companion presented themselves at Madame F——'s, and asked for Monsieur the Superintendent Arcambal. The most perfect incognito was impressed on Arcambal by the First Consul, who would not for all the world have been recognized; and M. Arcambal promising to keep the secret, the two visitors were announced under the title of commissaries of war.
They were playing bouillotte; gold covered the tables, and the game and punch absorbed the attention of the happy inmates to such a degree, that none of them took note of the persons who had just entered. As for the mistress of the lodging, she had never seen the First Consul except at a distance, nor General Bertrand; consequently, there was nothing to be feared from her. I myself think that Colonel Joseph recognized his brother, but he gave no evidence of this.
The First Consul, avoiding as best he could all glances, spied those of his brother and of Madame F——. Thinking signals were passing between them, he was preparing to quit the salon of the pretty Dunkirkess, when she, very anxious that the number of her guests should not yet be diminished, ran to the two false commissaries of war, and detained them gracefully, saying that all were going to play forfeits, and they must not go away without having given pledges. The First Consul having first consulted General Bertrand by a glance, found it agreeable to remain and play those innocent games.
Indeed, at the end of a few moments, at the request of Madame F——, the players deserted the bouillotte, and placed themselves in a circle around her. They began by dancing the Boulangere; then the young innocents kept the ball in motion. The turn of the First Consul came to give a forfeit. He was at first very much embarrassed, having with him only a piece of paper, on which he had written the names of a few colonels; he gave, however, this paper to Madame F——, begging her not to open it.
The wish of the First Consul was respected, and the paper remained folded on the lap of the beautiful woman until the time came to redeem the forfeits. Then the queer penalty was imposed on the great captain of making him doorkeeper, while Madame F——, with Colonel Joseph, made the 'voyage a Cythere' in a neighboring room. The First Consul acquitted himself with a good grace of the role given him; and after the forfeits had been redeemed, made a sign to General Bertrand to follow him, and they went out. The joiner who lived on the ground floor soon came up to bring a little note to Madame F——.
This was the note:
I thank you, Madame, for the kind welcome you have given me. If you will come some day to my barracks, I will act as doorkeeper, if it seems good to you; but on that occasion I will resign to no, other the pleasure of accompanying you in the 'voyage a Cythre'.
The pretty woman did not read the note aloud; neither did she allow the givers of forfeits to remain in ignorance that she had received a visit from the First Consul. At the end of an hour the company dispersed, and Madame F—— remained alone, reflecting on the visit and the note of the great man.
It was during this same visit that there occurred a terrible combat in the roadstead of Boulogne to secure the entrance into the port of a flotilla composed of twenty or thirty vessels, which came from Ostend, from Dunkirk, and from Nieuport, loaded with arms for the national fleet.
A magnificent frigate, carrying thirty-six pounders, a cutter, and a brig, detached themselves from the English fleet, in order to intercept the route of the Dutch flotilla; but they were received in a manner which took away all desire to return.
The port of Boulogne was defended by five forts; the Fort de la Creche, the Fort en Bois, Fort Musoir, Castle Croi, and the Castle d'Ordre, all fortified with large numbers of cannon and howitzers. The line of vessels which barred the entrance was composed of two hundred and fifty gunboats and other vessels; the division of imperial gunboats formed a part of this.
Each sloop bore three pieces of cannon, twenty-four pounders,—two pieces for pursuit, and one for retreat; and five hundred mouths of fire were thus opened on the enemy, independently of all the batteries of the forts, every cannon being fired more than three times a minute.
The combat began at one o'clock in the afternoon. The weather was beautiful. At the first report of the cannon the First Consul left the headquarters at the Pont de Brique, and came at a gallop, followed by his staff, to give orders to Admiral Bruix; but soon wishing to examine for himself the operations of the defense, and to share in directing them, he threw himself, followed by the admiral and a few officers, into a launch which was rowed by sailors of the Guard. Thus the First Consul was borne into the midst of the vessels which formed the line of defense, through a thousand dangers, amid a tempest of shells, bombs, and cannon-balls. With the intention of landing at Wimereux, after having passed along the line, he ordered them to steer for the castle of Croi, saying that he must double it. Admiral Bruix, alarmed at the danger he was about to incur, in vain represented to the First Consul the imprudence of doing this. "What shall we gain," said he, "by doubling this fort? Nothing, except to expose ourselves to the cannon-balls. General, by flanking it we will arrive as soon." The First Consul was not of the admiral's opinion, and insisted on doubling the fort. The admiral, at the risk of being reprimanded, gave contrary orders to the sailors; and the First Consul saw himself obliged to pass behind the fort, though much irritated and reproaching the admiral.
This soon ceased, however; for, hardly had the launch passed, when a transport, which had doubled the castle of Croi, was crashed into and sunk by three or four shells.
The First Consul became silent, on seeing how correct the admiral's judgment had been; and the rest of the journey, as far as the little port of Wimereux, was made without hindrance from him. Arriving there, he climbed upon the cliff to encourage the cannoneers, spoke to all of them, patted them on the shoulder, and urged them to aim well. "Courage, my friends," said he, "remember you are not fighting fellows who will hold out a long time. Drive them back with the honors of war." And noticing the fine resistance and majestic maneuvers of a frigate, he asked, "Can you believe, my children, that captain is English? I do not think so."
The artillerymen, animated by the words of the First Consul, redoubled their zeal and the rapidity of their fire. One of them said, "Look at the frigate, General; her bowsprit is going to fall." He spoke truly, the bowsprit was cut in two by his ball. "Give twenty francs to that brave man," said the First Consul to the officers who were with him. Near the batteries of Wimereux there was a furnace to heat the cannon- balls; and the First Consul noticed them operating the furnaces, and gave instructions. "That is not red enough, boys; they must be sent redder than that, come, come." One of them had known him, when a lieutenant of artillery, and said to his comrades, "He understands these little matters perfectly, as well as greater ones, you see."
That day two soldiers without arms were on the cliff noticing the maneuvers. They began a quarrel in this singular manner. "Look," said one, "do you see the Little Corporal down there?" (they were both Picards). "No; I don't see him."—"Do you not see him in his launch?"— "Oh, yes, now I do; but surely he does not remember, that if anything should strike him, it would make the whole army weep—why does he expose himself like that?"
"Indeed, it is his place!"—"No, it's not "—"It is"—"It isn't. Look here, what would you do to-morrow if the Little Corporal was killed?"— "But I tell you it is his place!" And having no other argument on either side, they commenced to fight with their fists. They were separated with much difficulty.
The battle had commenced at one o'clock in the afternoon, and about ten o'clock in the evening the Dutch flotilla entered the port under the most terrible fire that I have ever witnessed. In the darkness the bombs, which crossed each other in every direction, formed above the port and the town a vault of fire, while the constant discharge of all this artillery was repeated by echoes from the cliffs, making a frightful din; and, a most singular fact, no one in the city was alarmed. The people of Boulogne had become accustomed to danger, and expected something terrible each day. They had constantly going on, under their eyes, preparations for attack or defense, and had become soldiers by dint of seeing this so constantly. On that day the noise of cannon was heard at dinner-time; and still every one dined, the hour for the repast being neither advanced nor delayed. Men went about their business, women occupied themselves with household affairs, young girls played the piano, all saw with indifference the cannonballs pass over their heads; and the curious, whom a desire to witness the combat had attracted to the cliffs, showed hardly any more emotion than is ordinarily the case on seeing a military piece played at Franconi's.
I still ask myself how three vessels could have endured for nine hours so violent a shock; for when at length the flotilla entered the fort, the English cutter had foundered, the brig had been burnt by the red-hot cannon-balls, and there was left only the frigate, with her masts shivered and her sails torn, but she still remained there immovable as a rock, and so near to our line of defense that the sailors on either side could be seen and counted. Behind her, at a modest distance, were more than a hundred English ships.
At length, after ten o'clock, a signal from the English admiral caused the frigate to withdraw, and the firing ceased. Our line of ships was not greatly damaged in this long and terrible combat, because the broadsides from the frigate simply cut into our rigging, and did not enter the body of our vessels. The brig and the cutter, however, did more harm.