LI. The Capitulation of Paris

The roar of cannon, which continued all the day long of the 30th of March, began now to cease; but the great battle which the allies fought under the walls of Paris with the corps of Marmont and Mortier, was not finished. Before resorting to a bombardment, and an assault on the city, conciliation was once more to be tried. Delegates of the monarchs, therefore, repaired to the marshals, and requested them to consent to an honorable capitulation.

"This is another instance of our foolish generosity!" growled Blücher, leaning back in his carriage. "The whole rats'-nest ought to be demolished; Bonaparte and the French would then have to submit. But I see already how it will be. The peace will be unsatisfactory, and our demands will be as modest as possible, lest we incur the displeasure of the dear French.--Pipe-master, hand me a short pipe! I must smoke, to stifle my anger."

"Your excellency," said Christian, riding up to the carriage, "you have promised the surgeon general not to smoke much, and least of all a short pipe, because the hot smoke is injurious to the eyes. Your excellency has smoked six pipes to-day!"

"And it seems to me that is very little! What are six pipes for a general-in-chief, who has to reflect so much as I have to-day? Give me a pipe, Christian; it is bad enough that I have to sit in such a monkey-box of a carriage, instead of riding on horseback at the head of my troops."

"Nevertheless, every thing passed off very well," said Christian, calmly. "You shouted your orders out of the carriage like a madman, and the generals and adjutants heard and executed all as if you had been on horseback among them. In fact, it would have been only necessary for you to order, 'Forward!' It would have been just as well, for your hussars were intent on nothing else; and, like their field-marshal, they wished only to reach Paris."

"And now we have to wait here without firing a gun," replied Blücher. "Moreover, my eyes ache as if they were burning. The sun has been blazing all day, as though curious to see whether or not we should take Paris; he has poured his rays on me since daybreak, and I had no protection for my old eyes. On looking out of the carriage early this morning I lost my shade; the wind carried it off as though it were a kite. I have lost it, and, what is worse, I cannot even enter Paris, for we shall of course sign a capitulation."

"Here is the pipe, your excellency," said Christian, "and now, good- by, field-marshal; I have to attend to a little private matter."

He galloped off, and Blücher looked after him. "Happy fellow!" he said, sighing; "he can gallop as light as a bird, while I must sit here as a poor old prisoner!" At this moment his adjutant, Major von Nostiz, rode up to the field-marshal's carriage. "Well, Nostiz, tell me how things look in the outer world. What is the news?"

"Bad and good, your excellency," said Nostiz. "A murderous battle has taken place to-day, and we have sustained heavy losses. About eight thousand men were killed on our side, but in return we have gained a large number of trophies, field-pieces, caissons, and stands of colors."

"We ought to have taken all their colors!" cried Blücher, eagerly. "What say the monarchs now, Nostiz? Will they still leave the Parisians the choice to suffer a bombardment or not?"

"The negotiations are still pending."

"Are the monarchs themselves taking part in them? Do they condescend to negotiate in person?"

"No, your excellency. The monarchs have returned to their quarters; the King of Prussia has gone to the village of Pantin, the Emperor of Russia to Bondy, and their representatives have repaired to the suburb of La Chapelle, where they are treating with Marshals Mortier and Marmont and their two adjutants in regard to the capitulation of Paris."

"Would that their negotiations were unsuccessful--that we might have the pleasure of bombarding this infamous city which, for twenty years past, has brought so much misery on Europe!"

"There is some prospect of it," said Nostiz, smiling. "The allies have demanded that the French corps should surrender as prisoners of war. To this the marshals refused to accede, declaring that they would perish first in the streets, so the allies agreed to abandon this article. A discussion next rose as to the route by which the corps of Marmont and Mortier should retire, so as to be prevented from joining the approaching forces of the emperor, the allies insisting for that of Brittany, the French for any that they might choose. The marshals refused positively to agree to these demands."

"They did!" cried Blücher, in an angry voice. "Well, I am glad of it, for I see now that we shall have a bombardment. Let us immediately make all necessary dispositions for it, in order that when the fun commences we may be ready. Bring me my horse!" With the activity of a youth Blücher opened his carriage and vaulted on the horse, which the groom led close to the carriage. For a moment he reeled in the saddle; for he felt as if red-hot daggers were piercing his eyes, but he overcame his faintness and pain. "Where are the members of my staff, Nostiz?" he asked, eagerly.

"They are near, your excellency, at La Villette."

"Let us ride, then, to La Villette, and thence up the Montmartre. Nostiz, you will have immediately eighty or ninety pieces planted on the Montmartre, that, when the bombardment commences early in the morning, there may be no delay. [Footnote: Varnhagen von Esse, "Life of Blücher," p. 380.] Make haste, Nostiz! There must be at least eighty pieces! We shall startle the Parisians out of their slumber," growled Blücher, riding along the road to La Villette, attended by his orderlies; "let them see that another state of affairs exists, and that they are no longer the masters of the world, and able to trample others in the dust!"

At La Villette, Blücher met the members of his staff, and, with Gneisenau and Muffling by his side, and followed by the other officers, rode up the heights of Moutmartre. The sun had set, but his last beams still lingered in the evening clouds. The silence reigning around them after the uproar of the day, made upon their minds a solemn impression. At first the party engaged in an animated conversation, but it gradually ceased. Peaceful nature in this spring eventide contrasted the noise and bloodshed of the day with her own indifference, so that even Blücher himself was deeply moved.

They reached the crest of the Montmartre. Paris--the long-feared, but now vanquished Paris, which for centuries had not seen a conquering enemy near its walls--lay at their feet. The steeples of Notre-Dame, of St. Genevieve, the large cupola of the Hotel des Invalides, the countless spires proudly looming up, the vast pile of the Tuileries, the Louvre, the Palais-Royal, where for twenty years Napoleon had given laws to trembling Europe, were plainly discerned. And this great city, with its temples and palaces, was in the hands of the enemy. They were Prussian generals who looked down from the heights of the Montmartre, and who for seven years had borne the disgrace of their country with sad yet courageous hearts; but this moment was a sufficient indemnity for the long years of wretchedness.

"This, then, is Paris," said Blücher, after a long pause, and his voice was gentle and tremulous. "This is Paris, for which I have longed during seven years--the city which I knew my eyes would see, that I might die in peace! Good God," he cried, lifting his blue eyes toward heaven, and taking off his cap, "I thank Thee for having permitted us to be here, for lending us Thy assistance in attaining our object, and hurling from the throne the man who has so long been a terror to humanity. I thank Thee for having called us, the men who saw the disastrous day of Jena, to participate in the day of liberation! Blessed spirit of our Queen Louisa! if thou, with thine heavenly eyes that wept so much on earth, now lookest down upon us, behold our hearts full of gratitude toward God, and of love for thee as when thou wast among us! Thou hast assisted us in gaining the victory; assist us now, too, in profiting by it in a manner worthy ourselves, and for the welfare of the fatherland!" he paused, and, shading his face with his cap, prayed in a low voice. The generals followed his example; removing their hats, they offered silent prayers of gratitude to God. "Now," cried Blücher, putting on his cap again, "we have paid homage to Heaven, let us think a little of ourselves. I am still in hope that there will be a bombardment, and that we shall send our balls to the Parisians for breakfast to- morrow. I will, therefore, remain on the Montmartre, and establish here my quarters for the night."

"Field-marshal!" shouted a voice at a distance. "Field-Marshal Blücher, where are you?"

"Here I am!" shouted Blücher.

"And here I am!" cried Hennemann, galloping up.

"Pipe-master, is it you?" asked Blücher, in amazement. "Well, what do you want, and where have you been so long?"

"I have just brought an eye-shade for you, and here it is," said Christian, handing with profound gravity a lady's bonnet of green silk, with a broad green brim.

"A bonnet!" exclaimed Blücher, laughing. "What am I to do with it?"

"Put it on," said Christian, composedly. "We can cut off the crown, then it will be a good shade; your excellency will put it on, and wear your general's hat over it."

"That will do," said Blücher. "But tell me, my boy, where did you get it?"

"I saw this afternoon a lady with a green bonnet at a villa near which I passed, and when you told me you ought to have an eye-shade, I thought immediately of the bonnet. Well, I rode to the house, and knocked so long at the door that they opened it. There were none but women at the house, and they cried and wailed dreadfully on seeing me. Well, I told them at once that I would not hurt them, but was only desirous of getting the green bonnet. While the women were raising such a hue-and-cry, another door opened, and the lady who owned the house came in, with the bonnet on. Well, I went directly to her, made her an obeisance, and said, 'Madame, be so kind as to give me your green bonnet for my field-marshal, who has sore eyes.'"

"Well, and did she understand your good Mecklenburg German?" inquired Blücher, smiling.

"No, she did not understand me apparently, but I made myself understood, your excellency."

"Well, what did you do?"

"Oh, your excellency, I simply stepped near her, took hold of the large knot by which her bonnet was tied under her chin, loosened it, seized the bonnet by the brim, and took it very gently from her head. She cried a little, and fainted away--but that will not hurt a woman; I know she will soon be better. I secured my prize, and here I am, and here is your excellency's eye-shade."

"And a good one it is. I thank you, my boy; I will wear it in honor of you, for my eyes are aching dreadfully, and I have need of a shade. I will raise this standard when we make our entrance into Paris, and I believe, pipe-master, the fair Parisians will rejoice at seeing me dressed in the latest Parisian fashion. But now, milliner, cut off the crown, else I cannot use it."

"I will do so at once," said Christian, taking a pair of scissors from his dressing-pouch, and transforming a lady's bonnet into an eye-shade.

A few hours afterward, all was quiet on the Montmartre, and on all the other heights around Paris. After the battle the armies needed sleep, and it was undisturbed, for there was no longer an enemy to dispute their possession of the French capital.

Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches Napoleon and Blücher